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 Report - IRI Azerbaijan Conducts Partisan Observer Training (IRI)

 Report date: 10.11.2002

International Republican Institute
Azerbaijan Democracy Report

IRI Azerbaijan Conducts Partisan Observer Training
250 Democratic Activists Trained

IRI-Azerbaijan sponsored a series of five training seminars that gave basic information on electoral law to almost 300 partisan observers in preparation for the November 2nd municipal bye-elections. Each of the five major Azeri political parties participated - Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP), Azerbaijan National Independence Party (ANIP), Musavat, Popular Front Party (PFP), and Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP).

Partisan election observers are key to the success of any electoral process. These people are tasked by their party to monitor the election process in an individual precinct and protect their party's interests.

As in the United States, where the Republican and Democratic parties enlist challengers to watch the polls, the mere presence of partisan observers who can demonstrate knowledge of the law and a willingness to be vocal can provide a deterrent to election shenanigans.

Unfortunately, in Azerbaijan, many partisan observers are woefully informed about their rights and responsibilities under the Azeri election law.

Azeri lawyer Hafiz Hassanov, an expert on Azeri election law who also works for the domestic NGO For The Sake Of Civil Society, lectured at the seminars and directed participants through role playing exercises that gave participants a concept of the challenges they might actually face in a precinct.

Partisan Observer Training Seminar
Agenda of Issues:

  • Overview of Current Election Law - A basic overview of the election law as it currently stands.
  • Rights & Responsibilities - Rights and responsibilities of partisan observers under the current law. What observers can do. What observers cannot do.
  • Precinct Operation - How the election precincts are operated. The role of the PEC members and the Chair of the PEC. The process for opening a precinct. How the precinct should be run during the day. How the voting process should work. The process for closing the precinct, the vote count and the preparation of the protocols.
  • Fraud and Abuse - Common forms of fraud and how to combat them.
  • Complaints - How to write an official complaint that will be accepted by the courts.

Ilham Aliyev Meets with IRI Washington

During Ilham Aliyev's recent trip to the United States, IRI Eurasia Director Steve Nix and Assistant Program Officer for the Caucuses Jeff Greene, as well as representatives from the National Democratic Institute and International Federation for Election Systems met to discuss political developments and areas of cooperation in Azerbaijan.

Mr. Nix used the meeting to discuss Azerbaijani legislative priorities as well as to gain a better understanding of the newly proposed Unified Election Code (UEC). Like many others in the international NGO community, IRI hopes that there will be adequate public debate on this vital piece of legislation.

Mr. Aliyev stressed that an open discussion about the election law would be most helpful and pointed with eagerness to the OSCE-sponsored roundtable discussions that will be taking place concerning the draft law. Mr. Aliyev stated that the agenda of parliament will be varied, but they will be working with the Council of Europe to bring the laws of Azerbaijan into accordance with international standards.

Overall the meeting was very positive and IRI was able to pave the way for increased communication and cooperation with the presidential party.

Center-Right View to Unemployment
By Ilgar Mamedov
Deputy Chairman
Azerbaijan National Independence Party

In Azerbaijan unemployment is not a pure matter of economic policy, but to a larger extent it is a political problem: unemployment impoverishes people, prevents their personal and social development, and thus provides basis for the existing undemocratic political regime. Hence, the major task of ANIP's government would be strengthening major democratic institutions.

Some international studies claim that democracy begins only at per capita GDP of USD 2,000. Azerbaijan's current per capita GDP is USD650, but with purchasing parity power taken into account, we as a nation are just about to pass the international 'wealth test' for democracy.

Good deal of unemployment in Azerbaijan is of structural character, i.e. in some areas of the economy demand for labor force is higher than in others. This fact challenges our education system. Therefore, deep reform and better planning in this area would significantly prevent the future increase in unemployment rate. In addition, public funding of training schools where people would quickly acquire new knowledge and skills to adapt to new economic situations would contribute to the decline in the number of jobless people.

Mobility of young males in Azerbaijan is quite high, while older generation and female population are attached to their traditional place of residence. Since regional economic development programs are practically non-existent, there is a massive migration of young and mid-age male jobseekers from provinces to Baku, the capital city, or abroad. To put an end to this regional disproportion of labor market we would create favorable environment for investments outside of Baku.

Implementation of an efficient anti-corruption program would also contribute to the increase of direct foreign investments in non-oil sector, and a large portion of this FDI flow could be channeled to the regions so that to reduce tension at labor market in Baku.

Legal and administrative barriers to the development of private sector should be eliminated so that private businesses could open more jobs. Tax cuts are the key element of such policy. Not only legal taxes should be reduced, however, but the illegal taxes - bribes - should be reduced by strengthening government discipline.

As the above comments show, ANIP is a center-right political party, and mainly relies on conservative tools in economic management. Besides that, we believe that the problem of unemployment in Azerbaijan should be addressed from many directions, including political democratization and economic liberalization, and it cannot be resolved only by economic regulation.

Each issue of the Democracy Report features an issue-based article from either ADP, ANIP, Musavat, PFP, or YAP. They will appear in alphabetical order. The views expressed in each article are that of the party that authored it. They do not represent IRI's position.

IRI Eurasia Division Director Visits With ANIP Chairman, Etibar Mamedov

Azerbaijan National Independence Party (ANIP) Chairman Etibar Mamedov recently visited IRI headquarters in Washington, DC. Chairman Mamedov met with Eurasia Division Director Steve Nix and Assistant Program Officer Jeff Greene.

During the meeting IRI and Chairman Mamedov discussed a variety of political issues facing Azerbaijan and ANIP. Of particular concern to both IRI and ANIP was the status of the proposed Unified Election Code (UEC) and related public forums. In addition, IRI and ANIP discussed ways to increase cooperation with political parties in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan Political News Round-up

  • Parliament continued its fall session. The most heated debates cantered around the draft law on "Public television." The proposal would create the first ever public television in Azerbaijan and would be accessibly to all political parties.
  • Head of the President's Office's Department on Legislation Mr. Shahin Aliyev said the draft of the Unified Election Code would be introduced to the Parliament next month and informed that the OSCE would organize roundtables among the political parties to discuss the draft.
  • Opposition parties held unified demonstrations on October 4 and 27 with slogans: "Resignation!" "Fair Presidential Elections!" and "Only National Government can resolve Karabakh Problem!" Approximately 8,000 people participated in these events. The opposition parties expressed their intentions to continue these demonstrations

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