Azerbaijan's ruling party wins majority in boycotted parliamentary election

Azerbaijan's ruling party wins majority in boycotted parliamentary election
By bne IntelliNews November 2, 2015

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) won at least 69 seats in the Azerbaijani parliament, the Milli Mijlis, in the November 1 election, according to the Central Election Commission, which published preliminary results based on 91% of votes counted.

The result represents a landslide victory for YAP, which is chaired by President Ilham Aliyev.  YAP has not lost a presidential or parliamentary election since 1993. The November 1 election was boycotted by the main opposition parties, such as Musavat, the Popular Front and the National Council of Democratic Forces, because of government interference in the registration of their candidates.

International organisations and rights groups have called into question the fairness of the electoral campaign and election, as numerous irregularities related to candidate registration and campaigning were reported throughout October. The leader of Musavat, Isa Gambar, told AFP that YAP's victory was a foregone conclusion "in the absence of strong opposition candidates, and amid widespread violations".

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR) declined to send observers to the elections, citing a disagreement with Baku on the number of observers necessary to make accurate observations on the fairness of the electoral process.

On November 1, 767 candidates ran for 125 seats in parliament. The voter turnout was 55.7%, higher than the turnout in the 2010 parliamentary election (50.1%). Besides YAP's 69 winners, the majority of the remaining seats went to nominally independent candidates, who often pay large sums of money for their positions in the legislative body, and who customarily vote for the ruling party.

Some social media users corroborated evidence of alleged vote rigging and "ballot stuffing" at different polling stations on November 1.

Other voters, such as Arzu, a former journalist, believe that the current government is good for the country. "We have stability and no one bothers you if you do not talk about politics...I don't want Azerbaijan to end up like Iraq. The West wanted to establish democracy and human rights there, and look what happened," she told bne IntelliNews.

Some, like 21-year-old student Leyla, think that international criticism of Azerbaijan is unfair. "The European Union? They don't care about the Azerbaijani people, they only want our oil. They are not doing anything to give us our territories back. The Minsk group keeps meeting, but they do nothing for us," she said.

Meanwhile, Heydar, a 50-something farmer, is openly critical of some of YAP's policies, such as the decision to host a large-scale sporting event - the European Games - in June, which reportedly cost Baku up to £6.5bn. "Why did we need them? Everything started to go worse after them. I have been selling vegetables for 15 years, and I have never seen a crisis like this one. There are no jobs, people don't have money, the prices are going up. And things will only get worse from here," he told bne Intellinews in an interview.