IN THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN - 2013
REPORT BY CENTRAL ELECTION
COMMISSION OF THE REPUBLIC
(September 1 – October 19, 2013) Unofficial translation
The Presidential Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan were appointed to October 9, 2013 by the CEC decision and all the activities were implemented in comply with the "Calendar Plan for the main activities and measures on the preparation and conduct of the Presidential Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan”.
Considering that 2013 is the year of conducting Presidential Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Central Election Commission had started to prepare and implement many projects since the beginning of the year and the projects considered to be completed up to October were carried out successfully. These projects included the update of voters lists, further improvement of working conditions, financial and technical supply of lower election commissions, conduct of professional courses on election right, as well as, other activities for election commissions, awareness-raising of electoral participants with various status, nomination and registration of candidates for presidency, ensuring equal facilities for pre-election campaign, etc. (the CEC report with detailed information up to September 1, 2013 is available on the website).
Intensive activity of CEC was especially considerable in September. Thus, important election documents - ballot papers, copies of official carbonized voting protocols of Con.ECs and PECs and the protocol samples for observers were published at the printing house and delivered to Con.ECs, then from the Con.ECs to PECs under the observation of international (foreign) representatives. Lower election commissions were provided with ultraviolet lamps and invisible ink for marking the fingers of the voters participating in the voting. This procedure has been applied since 2005.
The process of updating the voters’ lists continued in September. The voters’ lists submitted by lower election commissions had been analyzed through specific software of the State Automated Information System before the approval by CEC, so that, doubtful facts included in the information on voters’ names, surnames, patronymics, dates of birth and gender, as well as, spelling errors had been found out, uncertain details in the above-stated information of 12962 voters’ data had been revealed and the information on those voters were sent to the Con.ECs for re-consideration. After detailed investigation, the data of 5906 voters were immediately removed and the information on 7056 voters was approved by the Con.ECs due to accurateness. Permanent voters with identical information on names, surnames, patronymics, dates of birth and gender were also found out within the borders of the Con.EC through the above-mentioned software of the State Automated Information System. It was determined that 464 voters on 125 Con.ECs had their "identical” within their constituencies. The data of those voters were also sent to the Con.ECs for re-consideration and consequently, repetitions were excluded from the lists due to identity of the data on 170 voters (it was verified with the identification documents). The names of 294 voters whose information differed only for the address of residence were excluded from the list after they were approved to be repetitions.
Upon the announcement of the Presidential Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the persons intending to participate in elections as candidates from the political party or on their own initiatives applied to the Central Election Commission with relevant documents. 22 nominees had submitted the relevant documents required for the verification of their candidacies to the Central Election Commission and 21 candidacies were verified up to September 1, 2013. In one case, the candidacy could not be verified due to the lack of legal grounds. 7 out of 21 verified nominees did not return signature sheets. 10 out of 14 candidates who had returned signature sheets and the documents attached to them were registered. In 4 cases, candidacies could not be registered due to the lack of the sufficient number required for valid signatures to be included in the submitted signature sheets as implied by law.
Campaign of registered candidates for presidency had been started since September 16, 2013. To ensure the facilities for the actors of pre-election campaign to conduct their campaigns as specified in the legislation, all activities had been taken and pre-election campaign atmosphere based on equal terms had been formed within their competence by lower election commissions under the supervision of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan and other bodies for the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections. Candidates could convey their pre-election platforms to the voters by using TV and radio (6 hours in a week) and press (free space for publication in "Azerbaijan”, "Republic”, "Khalg gazeti” and "Bakinski rabochiy” newspapers). Furthermore, candidates were also facilitated to use other payable mass media means on equal terms.
The Central Election Commission had always focused on awareness-raising of different election actors, and during September the activities had been intensified and many projects in this field had been carried out.
CEC regularly prepared and implemented projects for further improvement of professionalism level of the members of election commissions. One of the projects which was founded in 2002 and had already turned tradition is a training implemented by using visual aids for lower election commissions. Previously, this project was being implemented by small group of trainers. But since 2008, CEC together with the Venice Commission of the European Council, trained 2 local trainers for each election constituency. These trainers have played 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 2013 Presidential Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan. In the first stage, CEC Training Group conducted "Training for Trainers” in Baku on 18-21 September. 250 local trainers from 125 constituencies were trained on the voting process, exceptional cases, vote counting, Election Day procedures including filling out protocols and the cases possible to encounter on Election Day were covered during practical courses. The practice attained in the trainings conducted during previous elections was discussed and participants were provided with necessary recommendations. In the second stage where the members of Con.ECs and PECs had been involved in, CEC Training group prepared special supplementary slides for usage which covered necessary information for trainings and they were submitted to training groups on election constituencies. Second phase of the training for lower election commissions started since 23 September and was conducted for small groups of 30-36 persons based on the table submitted by Training group through using visual aids. This process had lasted nearly for a week. During the trainings, members of lower election commissions were informed on election process thoroughly. Each PEC member was submitted "Election Day Guide”, protocol samples on the voting results and many other documents during those trainings. More than 31000 commission members attended the trainings.
Citizens of Azerbaijan living in foreign countries were facilitated to implement their voting rights in the Presidential Elections of 2013 through the establishment of 38 polling stations in the embassies, consulate offices and diplomatic representations of the Republic of Azerbaijan located outside of the country borders. On September 10, 2013, the Secretariat officials of the Central Election Commission conducted training for the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the arrangement of the Presidential Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan outside of the country, regulating active suffrage of Azerbaijan citizens living in foreign countries, establishment of polling stations, voting organization and other issues. The issues on the voting arrangement in foreign states were discussed thoroughly and the appeared questions were replied to at the trainings.
On September 11, 2013, the officials of the CEC Secretariat conducted training for the officials of Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The issues on the activities implemented and projects scheduled by CEC for the conduct of the Presidential elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as, the voting arrangement, domestic and international observers, their rights and duties, participation of media representatives in elections and other matters were commented on thoroughly and the frequently asked questions were replied to at the training.
Another educational program implemented by CEC embodied young voters who voted for the first time. Since September 15, 2013, joint activities had been started to be implemented together with youth organizations for the awareness-raising of young voters voting for the first time. On September 23, 2013, the presentation of "Ses ver” ("Vote”) project aiming at involving the youth to take an active part in the election process was hold with support of CEC at "Park INN” hotel in Baku. The officials from the CEC Secretariat and the representatives of youth organizations took part at the event and were informed that nearly five hundred thousand youth would implement their voting rights for the first time in the Presidential Elections of 2013. To encourage the youth to take part in elections, special congratulation cards were prepared by CEC and during the voting, they were distributed to 150 young people who have aged 18 and got active suffrage since the Election Day –October 9, 2013.
CEC jointly with Ombudsman conducted regional educational activities on election right on September 23-28, 2013. Educational activities were conducted on September 23 in Shaki (Gabala, Shaki, Oghuz, Gakh, Ismayilli, Zagatala, Balakan regions and Mingachevir city), on September 24 in Ganja ( Goygol, Dashkasan, Samukh, Goranboy, Shamkir, Gadabay, Tovuz, Aghstafa, Gazakh regions and cities of Ganja, Yevlakh and Naftalan), on September 26 in Jalilabad (Jalilabad, Neftchala, Salyan, Bilesuvar, Masalli, Yardimli, Lankaran, Lerik and Astara regions), on September 27 in Guba (Guba, Khizi, Siyazan, Shabran, Gusar and Khachmaz regions) and on September 28 in Fuzuli. The activities were attended by 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 surrounded territories, as well as, representatives of different organizations. During the educational programs the preparations for the Presidential Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan, 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 clarified for the participants and their questions were replied thoroughly. The representatives of the international organizations and observation bodies functioning in regions which had been accredited to observe elections were also invited and facilitated to take part at the events.
On September 30, 2013, CEC had conducted practical trainings for computer specialists of Con.ECs for 3 days with the aim of preparations to the Presidential Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan. During the trainings the computer specialists of Con.ECs were provided with practical information on a new network version of the "Elections” State Automated Information System for transmitting the information to CEC on the E-day, the rules were studied via visual aids and the frequently asked questions were discussed. At the result of the trainings, the computer specialists gained practice of working experience which enabled easy network access on the E-day.
On October 2, 2013, a Conference on "The basis of the activity, rights, duties and responsibilities of media representatives in the election process” was conducted jointly with the Fund of State Support for the Development of Mass Media under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (FSSDMM) and the Central Election Commission. The officials of the respective mass media – newspapers, information agencies, TV channels and independent lawyers took part at the conference. The goal of conducting the conference was to hold discussions on the rights and duties of media representatives participating as observers in the Presidential Elections of October 9, 2013. During the conference attended by the heads of different mass media, civil societies and publicity, CEC representative commented on the principles of media participation in elections, their rights and duties and replied to the participants’ questions thoroughly.
Transparency of the process plays significant role in the conduct of free and fair elections. Generally, 51898 local observers had been registered to for the Presidential Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan. 1381 observers from the political parties, 3201 observers from non-governmental organizations, 235 observers by the registered candidates and 1211 observers on their own initiatives out of 6030 local observers registered by CEC for conducting observation in the country joined observation of elections. Another group of local observers were accredited by the relevant Con.EC to conduct observation within a certain constituency. The number of those observers reached 45868, 19149 out of them represented political parties, 1830 - non-governmental organizations and 24889 persons - on their own initiatives.
1295 international observers representing 50 international organizations and 100 countries also joined the observation process. Both local and international observers were provided with relevant badges and as well as, Election Day guidebooks. International observers were also provided with the Election Code, "Guide for Observers”, informational disc on Azerbaijan and other necessary materials in English and Russian languages.
Public awareness has been of great importance to CEC. Considering the upcoming elections, CEC had made its relations with mass media more intensive during November. CEC activity had been fully transparent to mass media during those months like the whole year and they had been informed on the date of sessions beforehand for ensuring transparency in the work of the Commission.
Mass media representatives had been invited regularly to the CEC activities and were provided with necessary information. CEC held press conferences, briefings and delivered information to the electronic media, published press releases and articles in September - October with the aim of informing the community on the preparation and conduct of elections. CEC Chairman conducted nearly 10 briefings for local and foreign media representatives and provided 9 TV interviews. During the briefings CEC Chairman informed on the latest activities realized and works implemented by CEC in the field of election preparations and enlightened the issues of great interest to journalists. 23 articles on the meetings and 16 comments of the CEC Chairman were published in press. On September 16, 2013, the representatives of the respective international mass media - "Reuters”, "Il Sole 24 Ore”, "”EUobserver”, "DPA” and "L’Espresso” met with the CEC Chairman and were informed thoroughly on the activities implemented and the projects carried out regarding the elections preparations and replied to the questions interesting to them.
During September-October 312 articles on the sessions conducted and the events organized by the Commission were published in press. Besides, 34 comments provided by the CEC members and the Secretariat officials were issued by mass media and their articles were published in press. Electronic and printing informational means allocated wide space for the sessions, events and legal documents by CEC.
Press releases, comments and articles related with the CEC activity were published in mass media. Pursuant to the Election Code, CEC decisions and other normative-legal documents were published in "Azerbaijan” newspaper and posted on the CEC official website. Generally, the activities implemented by CEC were publicized by 38 agencies, 31 newspapers, 18 TV and 7 radios, nearly 15 out of which were respective international mass media.
The educational program had been carried out on Public TV since the beginning of August when the elections were declared and it had been intensified further in those months. CEC members and Secretariat officials made TV speech provided 63 TV interviews during the month. CEC Chairman, Commission members and Secretariat officials conducted 18 briefings on the Election Day.
CEC provided the representatives of some lower election commissions with access to local media during September. The Con.EC chairpersons informed the community in their interviews on the activities implemented in the field of election preparations on the constituency level.
102 international mass media representatives of 34 respective mass media from all over the world were provided with the relevant badges by CEC and were entitled to publicize the elections freely.
Pursuant to the Election Code, "ELS” Independent Investigations Center, "Opinion” Monitoring Center, "Prognosis” Independent Sociological Research Center and "Constitution" Research Fund applied to CEC and were accredited for conducting exit-polls. The above-mentioned organizations conducted exit-poll on the E-day.
The process of using web cameras which had been applied in the election history of Azerbaijan since 2008 and allowed to follow the voting process live through internet outside of the election precincts continued in these elections. Apart from all other means for ensuring transparency in elections, the number of the polling stations within the republic with web cameras installed in previous elections was increased from 500 up to 1000 (approximately to 20 %). Technical preparations of web cameras was finalized, considering this issue at the CEC session, the relevant decision was adopted on October 3, 2013. The list of the polling stations with web cameras was published and posted on the official website.
On 27 September, 2013, CEC Chairman together with Minister of Communication and Informational Technologies visited the center of technical supervision on web cameras, they were made familiar with the latest preparations of web cameras and the ready condition of the equipment was re-examined. Internet users were allowed to watch the voting process, vote count and determination of results live and incessantly through the web-cameras by the access to the CEC website either in the country or abroad. It is worthy to note that web cameras were totally accessible by more than one hundred and fifty thousand IP addresses on the Election Day.
Hot line # 115 functioning at the Central Election Commission had received more than 500 appeals during September – October. The majority of appeals contained the questions of voters related with the voters’ lists, voting procedures, addresses of the polling stations, etc. The appeals were replied to immediately and relevant steps were taken operatively.
One of the basic activity fields of CEC is the cooperation with international and foreign organizations. Different projects and meetings were implemented in the frame of this cooperation. September - October were also prosperous with regard to the meetings of the administration of the Central Election Commission with the representatives of international organizations. Those included the meetings of the CEC Chairman with the members of CIS PAA Expert Group and members of CIS Observation Mission, members of PACE Special Committee’s Pre-election Mission, OSCE Chairman-in-Office's Special Coordinator, Head of the France - Azerbaijan Friendship Group in the French National Assembly, Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic Speaking Countries (TurkPA), delegation of Turkic Speaking Council, delegation of the State Duma of Russia, delegation of the Council of Russian Federation, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Member of the observation mission of France Senate, Chairpersons of CEC of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia, members of the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey. Furthermore, during September-October, other representatives of CEC conducted meetings on different levels with the representatives of international organizations.
At 8.00 a.m. on the Election Day –October 9, 2013, the voting on the whole country was opened and by coming to the polling stations, voters expressed their will freely. The information on voters turnout was transmitted to CEC via specific software through State Automated Information System. By informing mass media, as well as, posting on the CEC website, the information was submitted to the publicity for five times – at 10.00, 12.00, 15.00, 17.00, 19.00 on the E-day. All TV channels functioning in the country broadcasted live interviews and news coverage for enlightening the activity of CEC and lower election commissions and took direct part in storage of the information entered to CEC. Starting from 20.30 p.m., after closing the polling stations, the preliminary information on the voting results by all precincts in the country was directly transmitted to the CEC website through specific software of State Automated Information System and then from the System to all local and international community. Representatives of local and foreign mass media were provided with all facilities on the Election Day and the equipment to join the live airtime was used in the aim of informing the publicity on election results via direct broadcast from the Conference Hall of the Central Election Commission. Preliminary information on the voting results and winner candidate was provided basing on the data received from more than 70% of polling stations out of 5492 on the country and preliminary election results were delivered to the publicity at the briefing conducted by CEC Chairman at 00.30 a.m. on the Election Day.
Starting from October 10, 2013 after the Election Day, Con.EC voting protocols together with the attached documents had been delivered to CEC within the period defined by legislation.
Pursuant to the Election Code and Instruction "On the rules for filing and consideration appeals and complaints on the violation of election right by the Central Election Commission and Constituency Election Commissions”, the appeals and complaints submitted to the Commission were investigated by Expert Group consisting of 9 persons and decisions were adopted upon the discussion by the Central Election Commission. The above-mentioned procedures resulted in more detailed and effective investigation of the appeals.
Generally, CEC had been submitted 19 complaints within the whole election period. the Expert Group members replied to all the complaints immediately, investigated them thoroughly and relevant decisions were adopted upon being included in the session agenda of the Commission. At the result of investigating the submitted appeals and by the CEC decisions, 3 appeals were implemented, 5 were partly implemented, 7 were not implemented due to the lack of legal grounds, 2 were returned to the applicant as the deadline to file complaints had been missed, one was terminated for implementation as it had been withdrawn by the applicant and one was sent to the Con.EC for investigation accordingly.
Detailed investigation was conducted on each complaint. The members of the Expert Group considering the complaints and CEC representatives were deployed to meet with witnesses and inspect the reported incidents, the Commission was informed on the conclusions and final decisions were adopted on the complaints at the result of the voting of the commissioners. Relevant steps were taken to ensure the participation of the complainers wishing to take part in the investigation and CEC session. The activity of Expert Group was open to the applicants and international observers with the aim of ensuring transparency in consideration process of the appeals and complaints. During the investigation process, the complainers and representatives of international organizations were informed on that and were invited to follow the process. At the sessions, CEC Chairman regularly invited the representative of the publicity and international election observation missions to take part in the investigation. Meanwhile, the members of Expert Group replied to the questions of international observers and enlightened the issues of great interest to them in the investigation process.
During September - October, CEC conducted 16 sessions and 87 decisions were adopted. Decisions adopted within this period mainly concerned the registration or refusal from registering the candidates for presidency, registration of the authorized representatives and agents of the registered candidates and political parties with registered candidates, verification of the persons presented by the political parties with registered candidates for presidency as members with consultative rights at CEC, establishment of lottery commission for the distribution of the airtime allocated freely in the Presidential Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan, determination of date for conducting lottery and publication of airtime distribution, registration of the organizations intending to hold "exit-poll”, consideration of the submitted appeals and complaints, application of the usage practice of web cameras in the polling stations for ensuring transparency in the voting process, making changes to the structure of some Constituency Election Commissions, approval of some session minutes and the protocol of the Central Election Commission on the results of the Presidential Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan on October 9, 2013 and submission of the election results to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan for the approval and declaration, etc.
On October 17, 2013, "Voting results protocol of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan” was approved and the Commission adopted decision on sending it together with necessary documents for the approval to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan. At the Plenum of the Constitutional Court held on October 19, 2013, the results of the Presidential Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan conducted on October 9, 2013 were officially approved.
"Elections” State Automated Information System plays an important role in the preparation and conduct of elections. Technical supply and software of informational network was updated and strengthened and relevant database was re-formed for easy and secure entry to the network, publicizing different election-related information by lower election commissions and update of the voters’ lists with the aim of ensuring transparency in the Presidential Elections. Optical lines connecting the Central Election Commission with 125 election constituencies within the country, meanwhile, a spare optical line were drawn for ensuring communicational security. Technically improved local network version of "Elections” State Automated Information System enabled the implementation of data exchange more operatively, intensively and securely, therewith, it ensured collection, store and publicizing of the information. Local video conference program installed upon the network also facilitated direct and incessant connection with all the Constituency Election Commissions.
A software was improved for the compile and publication of voters’ lists more operatively and making relevant specifications in the voters’ lists. Specific and improved program modules enabled to check spelling errors, to reveal repetitions, to find identical information in the voters’ lists and eliminate technical errors, therewith, to implement other analyzes and assessments. E-mail addresses were formed for all the election constituencies for easy and operative exchange of data through "Elections” State Automated Information System which led to easier, operative, secure exchange of the election-related information. Technological sources of Constituency Election Commissions were reinforced further and all of them were equipped with new brand computers, UPS and notebooks to ensure effective activity of "Elections” State Automated Information System and incessant communication with lower election commissions.
All election-related information has been posted on the CEC website (www.msk.gov.az, www.cec.gov.az, www.infocenter.gov.az). The Constitution and Election Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan, all instructions, rules, comments and decisions adopted by CEC are available in Azerbaijani and English on the website (posted immediately after the sessions of the Commission). CEC decisions and information on the nomination and registration of candidates for presidency, as well as, opinions provided by the members of Expert Group regarding the submitted appeals and complaints and immediately after the session, relevant CEC decisions have been posted on the website in Azerbaijani and English. Furthermore, addresses of election constituencies and precincts, voters’ search system, voters’ visit to their polling stations with the help of specific navigation software, data on previous elections, information on the verified and registered candidates, structures, addresses and contact information of election commissions, addresses and maps of election precincts, voters’ lists, information on pre-election campaign, CEC press releases and other information of great interest to publicity have been posted on the web-site. The Commission website in social networks was also available for users and the information was also posted regularly on these websites.
78762 users had 503985 accesses to the website of the Central Election Commission and obtained different information through the websites during September and October.