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Home » Elections » Municipal elections » Municipal elections - 23.12.2014 » REPORT OF THE CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN - 2014



REPORT BY CENTRAL ELECTION
COMMISSION OF THE REPUBLIC
OF AZERBAIJAN

Municipal Elections - 2014
Unofficial translation

www.msk.gov.az
www.cec.gov.az
www.infocenter.gov.az




Self-governing bodies - municipalities in the Republic of Azerbaijan are formed for five years through elections based on universal, equal and direct suffrage by way of free, private and secret ballot as defined by law.

During the session held on October 21, 2014, the Central Election Commission (CEC) discussed the appointment of the next Municipal Elections due to the termination of municipalities’ term of office and adopted a relevant decision to hold the Municipal elections on December 23, 2014 by decision # 4/25. "Calendar Plan for the main activities and measures on the preparation and conduct of the Municipal Elections” was approved after the elections have been appointed and all the activities were implemented in comply with that document.

In view of the Municipal elections to be conducted in 2014, CEC started to carry out a number of projects since the beginning of the year and implemented necessary activities to conduct the elections that would result in electing 15035 members to 1607 municipalities within the country in a fair and free manner.

CEC focused on the important stages of the election process which included the update of voters’ list, development of legal framework, raising awareness of election actors and voters, nomination and registration of candidates for municipality membership, facilitating equal pre-election campaign, providing free access for the activity of observers and media representatives and implementation of all other duties implied in the Election Code.

The Central Election Commission had implemented the update of voters’ lists annually since January till the end of May, 2014 in comply with the Election Code. Members of the Precinct Election Commissions functioning during that period had updated the voters’ lists of their precincts by conducting "door-to-door” visits. Afterwards the information was transmitted to Constituency Election Commissions (Con.ECs), which in their turn checked the voters’ lists submitted by Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) and reviewed statistical data presented by the relevant bodies. In the next stage CEC examined the encountered repetitions and inaccurateness via special software for qualitative and quantitative analyze of voters’ data upon collecting the electorate database, thereby submitted an accurate version of the voters’ lists to Con.ECs.

A copy of the last version of the voters’ lists updated during that period was kept at Con. ECs and another copy at the Central Election Commission. The updated last version was also available on the CEC website.

The voters’ lists on the republic have also been posted on the CEC website since the beginnings of 2005 along with being displayed on the walls of the precincts for voters’ familiarization. Every voter may clarify if his/her entry has been included in the voters’ lists through direct transition or relevant search system and check his/her data (name, surname, patronymic, date of birth, the number of the precinct and constituency to vote). Meanwhile, the necessary information on the address of the precinct, map of that area, transportation means in this route was available for a voter on the website. Voters were able to call hotline # 115 or file the relevant online application form to the Central Election Commission regarding the elimination of the irregularities found in their entries. The information was reviewed and updated as necessary after the relevant investigation. Voters could also apply to the relevant Con.EC for checking their entries in the voters’ lists.

The update of voters’ lists was carried out on daily basis in cooperation with the relevant bodies (local Registration and ID cards Department, State Registration Department of Citizenship Acts and other organizations dealing with the citizens’ register). The process was carried out not only during elections and within the limited period, but through the whole year. The relevant information on the dynamics of voters’ action was delivered to Con.ECs and considered in the lists without delay.

Pursuant to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On the establishment of new municipalities by merging municipalities in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, dated May 30, 2014, 110 municipalities of 28 election constituencies were cancelled and the number of municipalities within the republic was determined to be 1607. Relevant executive authorities provided CEC with the updated information on the municipalities established officially due to the changes emerged as a result of the implementation of the Law. Meanwhile, the information on the current municipalities within every election constituency, number of members to be elected to municipalities in accordance with the population number, dislocation of election precincts and number of voters on the polling stations and the structures of PECs were also updated and publicized.

CEC carried out decisive activities for the compatibility of the voters’ number on some constituencies and precincts with the representation norm, thereby providing effective conditions to implement the rights of other election actors. Considering the necessity of amending the structures of the election constituencies due to the large territories of some constituencies and negative impact of this factor on the efficiency of determining the voting results, the boundaries, dislocations, schemes and graphic images of the Con.ECs # 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 50, Lankaran-Astara Con.EC # 76, Astara Con.EC # 77, Balaken Con.EC # 109 and Zagatala-Balaken Con.EC # 111 were changed and the information on election constituencies, as well as, the data on total voters’ number on every constituency was posted on the CEC website.

113 new polling stations were established in comply with the requirements of the Election Code which stipulated the necessity of providing better opportunities for voters, effectiveness of local and other conditions, prevention of offending the boundaries of election constituencies and conformity of voters’ number with the defined norms.

Awareness-raising has always been one of the priority issues to the CEC. Raising awareness of voters and members of lower election commissions was implemented through different projects. The Order of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On the approval of National Activity Program to increase the efficiency of protecting human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, dated December 27, 2011 had become one of the basic guiding documents for CEC to prepare and implement a number of projects and according to the above-mentioned document, professional courses on election right were conducted regularly for the members of Con.ECs and PECs.

In 2014 a project was carried out in 2 stages to raise awareness of the Con.EC and PEC members. In the first stage of the project, a seminar was conducted for the Con.EC chairpersons at the administrative building of CEC on October 17, 2014. During the event the officials of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, Milli Majlis, Supreme Court, Office of Attorney General, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Baku Appeal Court, as well as, CEC members made lectures on various issues for the Con.EC chairpersons. The training program included topics on duties of local executive authorities in the process of preparing and conducting elections and their bilateral activity with election commissions, effect of re-organization practice of municipalities on their activity and Municipal elections, role of attorney offices in the protection of election right, role of the institutions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the election process, effect of the quality of municipality activity on re-election of municipality members, judicial protection of election right and during the trainings, elections conducted in previous years and the "learned subjects” were reviewed. In the first stage of the educational activity, the Con.EC chairpersons were divided into 4 groups on October 18 and deployed to some Con.ECs in Baku, shared their experiences with the election commissions and made familiar with their working conditions and activities.

In the second stage of the project, professional courses on election right were conducted in regions for the members of Con.ECs and PEC chairpersons on 22-24 October, 2014. CEC representatives, Con.EC chairpersons, incumbent officials of local executive authorities of regions, courts, attorney offices and police departments made presentations and lectures during the courses aiming at developing professional skills of the members of lower election commissions. In general, professional courses on election right embodied more than 6000 election officials and the members of lower election commissions acquired detailed information on the election process. The courses attended by the invited representatives of international (foreign) organizations was broadcasted and reported to the publicity by mass media.

Within the framework of educational activities, CEC also conducted a seminar-conference on the investigation of appeals against violation of election right by Expert Group members under Con.ECs on November 12, 2014. The basic goal of the event was to investigate appeals against the actions (inactions) and decisions that violate citizens’ election right in a detailed, impartial and efficient way within the time period and manner defined by law, thereby ensuring transparency further in the investigation process of appeals and complaints. CEC members made presentations for the participants, discussed the experience attained during previous elections, also replied to the questions during the project. Members of relevant Expert Groups from each of 118 Con.ECs took part at the seminar-conference.

One of the projects carried out by CEC jointly with the Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) during the Municipal elections were regional educational activities on election right in Shaki, Ganja, Jalilabad, Fuzuli and Guba on November 17-24, 2014. The representative of the CEC Secretariat, incumbent officials of the executive authorities and law-enforcement bodies of the relevant regions, chairpersons, secretaries and members of the Con.ECs of the surrounding territories, as well as, the representatives of the community participated at the events. The preparations for the Municipal elections, implemented projects, exercising of the election right and ensuring citizens’ election rights, election legislation, legal documents, basic principles of domestic and international observation and other issues were discussed with the participants and their questions were replied to thoroughly during the educational programs. Observers and media representatives were also invited to and facilitated to take part at the educational events.

CEC implemented projects regularly for further improvement of professionalism level of the members of lower election commissions. One of the projects which was founded in 2002 and carried out as a tradition were trainings held by means of visual aids for lower election commissions. Formerly, the project was being implemented by small group of trainers. But since 2008, CEC jointly with the Venice Commission of the European Council has trained 2 local trainers for each election constituency. The trainers have played a significant role in awareness-raising of Con.EC and PEC members for several years. A training project was prepared in 2 stages with the aim of educating lower election commissions regarding the Municipal elections. In the first stage, CEC Training Group conducted "Training for Trainers” (ToT) in Baku on 17-20 November, 2014. 236 local trainers from 118 constituencies were trained on the Election Day procedures including voting process, exceptional cases, vote counting, filling out protocols and the cases which might be encountered on the voting day were covered during the practical courses. The practice gained during previous elections was also discussed and participants were provided with the necessary recommendations.

During the second stage involving the members of Con.ECs and PECs, CEC Training group prepared special supplementary slides with necessary information for trainings and submitted them to training groups on election constituencies. The second phase of the training for lower election commissions started since 25 November, 2014 and was conducted for small groups of 30-36 persons by using visual aids basing on the schedule submitted by the Training Group. The process had lasted for several weeks according to the number of election precincts. During the trainings members of lower election commissions were informed on the election process thoroughly. Each PEC member was provided with "Election Day Guide”, protocol samples on the voting results and many other documents during the trainings. More than 30000 commission members participated at the trainings.

One of the main fields of the CEC activity is cooperation with international and foreign organizations. Different projects and meetings had been implemented and opportunities of future partnership were discussed in the frame of this cooperation. In the light of the Municipal elections, informational sessions on "Powers and duties of local executive authorities and Con.ECs in the election process” were conducted by the co-organization of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Central Election Commission and the Office of the Council of Europe in Baku on December 8, 2014. The basic goal of the event held in comply with the Activity Plan of the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan for 2014-2016 was to exchange information with the participants on the powers and duties of local executive authorities and Con.ECs, as well as, on the current election practice of foreign countries. Such sessions were also conducted for the heads of regional executive authorities and Con.EC chairpersons in Shamkir on December 5 and in Shirvan on December 6, 2014. A number of issues were discussed and the topics included in the agenda were discussed during the sessions. Representatives of the embassies and diplomatic corps of foreign countries to the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as, international organizations were invited to the informational sessions and all the sessions were broadcasted in media.

One of the educational activities implemented during the Municipal elections was conducted at the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice on December 5, 2014. During the seminar on the organization of voting in the closed institutions, CEC representatives informed the officials of the foregoing body on the arrangement of the voting and clarified E-day procedures by using visual aids.

In the frame of the educational program for election actors, regional seminars on "Participation of the police in elections” aimed at raising awareness of the police on the role in the election process were conducted by the Central Election Commission jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Baku and regions on December 13, 15 and 16, 2014. CEC members, Secretariat officials and incumbent officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs made presentations at the seminars on improving the execution of duties of the police in election-related processes, as defined by legislation. "Guide for the participation of the police in Municipal Elections” co-prepared by CEC and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan were distributed to the participants.

The State Automated Information System (SAIS) plays an important role in ensuring transparency of the process on the Election Day. Practical trainings were held at CEC for the computer specialists of Con.ECs to get necessary skills and knowledge with the aim of using the established networks and relevant software properly. During the trainings lasted for three days, the computer specialists were provided with practical information on a new network version of the "Elections” State Automated Information System to transmit the information to CEC, trained on the rules of usage visually and the issues interesting to them were clarified. Specialists were facilitated to test the program modules at the trainings to transmit the information to CEC on the Election Day, thereby acquiring practical experience, which ensured easy use of the network on the voting day.

Strengthening of democratic values in society, development of election practice and formation of legal framework for the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections is of great importance. The publication of legal and methodical materials which are essential to raise awareness of members of lower election commissions, as well as, other election actors had always been focused on. Instructions, comments and rules adopted by CEC upon being made relevant amendments were published in 7 volumes and distributed to lower election commissions to ensure professional implementation of the provisions implied in the election legislation, also to improve and develop the skills on election right. A number of guidebooks – "Election day Guide”, "Guide for Candidates”, "Guide for Observers” and "Guide for the participation of police in Municipal Elections” were published and presented to relevant election actors, also posted on the official CEC website to raise awareness of the members of lower election commissions, candidates, observers and police officers and their additional copies were distributed to voters in election constituencies and precincts.

One of the main targets of the educational program carried out by CEC are voters. Different video and audio clips on checking the entries in the voters’ list, voting procedures regarding the Municipal elections, also calling to elections were prepared and broadcasted in TV and radio channels in the republic and they played an essential role in raising awareness of the country electorate and involving them in elections. Alongside with all these, notifications which contain educational information on the address of the polling station, place and date of the voting, list of ID documents used in the voting process, voting rules were published according to the voters’ number and had been distributed to them up to the voting day in comply with the Election Code.

One of the most important phases to prepare and conduct elections are candidates’ nomination and registration processes. Citizens who intended to participate as candidates in Municipal elections applied to Con.ECs since October 22, 2014 after the elections have been announced and were provided with signature sheets upon the submission of necessary documents. In general, 37917 contestants received signature sheets for 15035 municipality seats and 37564 of those persons returned signature sheets and other documents to Con.ECs. 14029 of the contestants who had returned the signature sheets were representatives of 8 political parties, 23421- on their own initiatives and 114 – initiative groups. To facilitate the nomination and registration procedures, also to avoid irregularities in the submitted documents, the citizens who intended to participate as candidates were submitted the blank forms to fill and return to the election commissions. Con.ECs adopted relevant decisions on candidates’ registration upon investigating the submitted documents. The process of candidates’ registration lasted up to November 29, 2014 and 37346 nominees who had returned signature sheets and other documents implied in legislation were registered for municipality membership in a relevant manner. 368 nominees withdrew their candidacies due to the changes in residency addresses and similar reasons and consequently, names of 37077 candidates were entered in ballot papers on municipalities. 13907 of those candidates were nominated by 8 political parties, 109 - initiative groups and 23061 - on their own initiatives. Generally, the representatives of 30 political parties among the registered candidates took part in the elections.

One of the important stages of the election process - pre-election campaign started after the registration phase of candidates has been ended. Lower election commissions led by CEC and other relevant bodies implemented all activities within their competence to provide pre-election campaign actors with legally defined opportunities to hold their campaign and formed equal pre-election campaign atmosphere for free, fair and transparent elections. Pursuant to the Election Code, open and closed venues were allocated to candidates with the assistance of local executive authorities. The number of such areas was 2837 (1436 closed and 1404 open). Having informed the Con.EC, candidates held pre-election meetings with their voters freely upon using those venues free of charge. Generally, candidates were fully facilitated to meet with voters and convey their election-related signals to them.

The format and number of ballot papers were approved by CEC and their printing started after candidates’ registration stage, thus 4976302 ballot papers were printed on 1607 municipalities and distributed to Con.ECs.

Transparency of the process plays a significant role in the conduct of free and fair elections. In total, 50551 domestic observers were accredited to observe the Municipal elections. Citizens who intended to observe within the whole territory of the republic applied to and accredited by CEC and those who intended to observe within the territory of the relevant election constituency applied to and were accredited by the Con.ECs. Generally, 21 out of 26857 accredited observers were representatives of political parties, 19 of 571 - NGOs, 2325 - registered candidates and 20798 - on own initiatives and all of them monitored the E-day processes freely since the beginning till the end.

"ELS” Independent Investigations Centre applied to CEC and was registered to conduct exit-poll in comply with the Election Code.

Awareness-raising of the public had always played an important role for CEC. In the light of the forthcoming elections, CEC had intensified the relations with mass media further since September. The activity of CEC had been fully open to media during the whole election process to ensure transparency in the work of the Commission. They were informed on the CEC sessions in advance. Media representatives were invited to the CEC events and acquired necessary information regularly. CEC held press conferences and briefings on the current issues during October and December to raise public awareness on the preparation and conduct of the elections, delivered information on all the projects to be carried out in elections to the mass media functioning in the republic and published press releases and articles. During the press conference usually organized for all the mass media a day before the Election Day and midnight on the voting day, CEC Chairman informed local and international community on different issues on elections and also replied to the questions of media representatives.

808 different materials on the sessions and activities held by the Commission were published during elections. Furthermore, 42 presentations by the officials of the Commission and Secretariat were publicized by media. Electronic and print media allocated much space for the CEC sessions and the arranged activities. Different press releases, presentations and articles on the CEC activity, as well as, the CEC decisions and other legal and normative documents were published in "Azerbaijan” newspaper and posted on the CEC official website. Generally, the activities undertaken by CEC were broadcasted by media regularly.

CEC members and officials of Secretariat made reports on different issues in the field of elections at the educational program of "Khalg sechir” ("People elect”), which had been broadcasted once a week on Public TV since the declaration of the elections in October, 2014. Additionally, 9 articles of the Commission members and Secretariat officials were published to raise awareness on different issues in the Municipal elections. CEC Chairman, Commission members and Secretariat officials held 13 briefings for media representatives on the Election Day.

Lower election commissions also took floor in mass media regularly. In their interviews, Con.EC chairpersons informed voters on the activities undertaken by the election constituency and preparations implemented in regions.

The process of using webcams which had been applied in the election history of Azerbaijan since 2008 and allowed to follow the voting process lively through internet outside the election precincts was also continued in these Municipal elections. Apart from all other means for ensuring transparency in elections, webcams were installed in 1000 (approximately to 20 %) polling stations which covered the whole territory of the country excluding the occupied areas. The issue on using webcams was considered at the CEC session and after a relevant decision had been adopted, the list of the polling stations with webcams was published and posted on the official website. On December 19, 2014 CEC Chairman and Minister of Communication and Informational Technologies visited the Centre for Technical Surveillance of Webcams, they familiarized themselves with the latest preparations of webcams and the readiness of the equipment. Internet users were able to monitor the voting process, vote count and determination of results lively and incessantly through the webcams by the access to the CEC website either in the country or abroad.

Election-related hotline # 115 functioning at the CEC since 2008 had already become a reliable information resource for those participating in elections. Automated phones and electronic hotlines had received nearly 700 appeals during October and December. Mainly, the appeals concerned the questions of voters related with the voters’ lists, voting procedures, addresses of the polling stations and other legal issues. The received appeals were replied to immediately and relevant steps were taken without delay.

Since the appointment of the Municipal elections up to the period for compiling the CEC final protocol on general election results, the Commission had conducted 24 sessions and generally, 198 decisions were adopted at those sessions. Decisions adopted within that period mainly embodied the appointment of the next Municipal Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the approval of the "Calendar Plan for the basic activities and measures on the conduct and preparation of the Municipal Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, establishment of the Expert Group under CEC to investigate complaints against the actions (inactions) and decisions violating citizens’ election rights, as well as, formation and determining the structure of the Working Group to check the accuracy of the information included in signature sheets and documents submitted by candidates, political parties, political party blocs, rules for preparation and number of the final protocols on the voting results of the election commissions, rules for the text, format, number and preparation rules of notifications on informing voters on the place and date of the voting, investigation of the appeals filed to CEC, the usage of webcams in the polling stations in the voting process, determining the election results on the municipalities, the territories of which had been divided among some election constituencies, consideration of an appeal to hold "exit-poll”, registration of authorized representatives of political parties, verification of a member with consultative right appointed by the political party and other issues.

The voting on the whole country was opened at 8.00 a.m. and voters went to the polling stations to express their will freely on the Election Day –October 9, 2013. The information on voters’ turnout was transmitted to CEC via special software through the "Elections” State Automated Information System and was posted on the website on the E-day five times – at 10.00, 12.00, 15.00, 17.00 and 19.00. TV channels functioning in the country broadcasted live interviews and news to publicize the activity of CEC and lower election commissions and took active part in the processing of the information submitted to CEC. Since 20.30 p.m. after closing the polling stations, the preliminary information on the voting results from all precincts in the country was directly transmitted to the CEC website through the SAIS special software and delivered to all local and international community. Representatives of mass media were provided with all facilities to join the live airtime to inform the public on election results via direct broadcast from the CEC Conference Hall. The vote counting was conducted incessantly after the voting has ended on the E-Day and preliminary voting results on more than 70% election precincts in the country was being posted immediately on the CEC website within 5 hours after the voting and the protocol data on all polling stations was posted at 9.00 a.m. the next day to familiarize local and international community on the election results. After the vote counting, final voting protocols and other election documents were delivered from PECs to Con.ECs and from Con.ECs to CEC within the period defined by legislation.

Pursuant to the Election Code and Instruction "On the rules for submitting and consideration of appeals and complaints on the violation of election right by the Central Election Commission and Constituency Election Commissions”, prepared jointly by Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the appeals and complaints submitted to the Commission were investigated by the Expert Group composed of 9 persons and relevant decisions were adopted upon the discussion by the CEC. The appeals were investigated in a more detailed and effective manner by way of the foregoing procedures.

All the appeals submitted to CEC before, during and after the voting day were immediately replied to, put in the session of the Commission and relevant decisions were adopted to ensure citizens’ election rights. Detailed investigation was conducted on each complaint and the members of the Expert Group considering the complaints undertook necessary activities to meet with witnesses and inspect the reported incidents, informed the Commission on the conclusions, and final decisions were adopted on the complaints upon the voting of the commission members. Relevant steps were undertaken to ensure the participation of the complainants who wished to take part in the investigation process and at the CEC session. The activity of the Expert Group was open to the applicants, observers and other interested actors, they were regularly informed on the investigation process and invited to follow the process. During the sessions of the Commission, CEC Chairman invited the applicants, observers and other interested persons regularly to take part in the investigation.

Generally, CEC had received 17 appeals up to the voting day since the appointment of the elections. 12 appeals justification of which had been grounded were implemented in the investigation process and 11 nominees were registered for municipality membership by CEC. Meanwhile, CEC and Con.ECs also investigated 79 appeals submitted to CEC after the voting day and adopted relevant decisions upon the discussion at the sessions. In general, 96 appeals submitted during the Municipal elections embodied 65 of 1607 municipalities and 40 election constituencies.

During the CEC final session on the Municipal elections attended by the representatives of international and foreign organizations, mass media on January 12, 2015 a relevant decision was adopted on the cancel of the voting results on 43 election precincts, invalidation of the elections on 8 municipalities, the formation of the municipality membership in complete structure on 1599 municipalities the general election results of which had been approved and the declaration of the list of the members elected to municipality membership. By the decision of the Commission, Shabran-Siyazan Con.EC # 54, Masalli city Con.EC # 70 and Lankaran-Masali Con.EC # 75 were dismissed due to the irregularities in their activity during the preparation and conduct of elections and determination of the election results and 5 PECs were dismissed due to the irregularities committed in their activity. CEC final protocol on general election results was compiled and approved by the decision of the Commission upon being signed by the CEC members.

The Central Election Commission implemented activities to improve the logistics conditions of Constituency and Precinct Election Commissions regarding the preparations to the Municipal Elections. Thus, the conditions of lower election commissions regarding the materials, equipments and other necessary means were checked and prepared for the E-Day upon taking relevant steps.

All election-related information was posted on the CEC website (www.msk.gov.az, www.cec.gov.az, www.infocenter.gov.az) on regular basis. The Constitution, the Election Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as, all instructions, rules, comments and decisions adopted by CEC (posted immediately after the sessions of the Commission) were available in Azerbaijani and English on the website. Information on the CEC activity and previous elections, opinions provided by the members of Expert Group regarding the submitted appeals and complaints and relevant CEC decisions and press releases on the sessions had been posted on the website in Azerbaijani and English. Furthermore, addresses of election constituencies and precincts, voters’ search system, voters’ visit to the polling stations with the help of specific navigation software, list of municipalities, number of the members to be elected, election precincts to vote for each municipality, information on the nomination and registration of candidates, structures, addresses and contacts of election commissions, addresses and maps of election precincts, voters’ lists, information on pre-election campaign, press releases and other information of great public interest were posted on the CEC website.

Regularly updated website with all the necessary information on elections had been accessible for users in the whole election process. The users were able to get different information on the website and to monitor the voting process via webcams. The CEC website was viewed by more than 60000 users on the Election Day.

CEC reports were posted on the official website of the Commission in Azerbaijani and English and sent to local and international (foreign) organizations by e-mail.