On September 26, 2016 the nationwide voting (referendum) was conducted to make changes to the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan. On July 27, 2016 Calendar Plan was approved by the CEC decision upon the official announcement of the referendum and all the activities and projects were carried out in compliance with the Plan.
The important stages of the referendum process that include the update of voters’ lists, development of legal framework, awareness-raising of referendum stakeholders and voters, establishment and registration of referendum campaign groups, ensuring equal opportunities for pre-referendum campaign and free access for the activity of media representatives and the implementation of other duties implied in the Election Code were firmly focused on for the conduct of the referendum freely, fairly and transparently.
The Central Election Commission started many large-scale projects since the beginnings of 2016. So, the process of updating voters’ lists was implemented annually in comply with the Election Code starting from January till the end of May. Members of the Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) functioning during that period had updated the voters’ lists of their precincts. Afterwards the information was transmitted to Constituency Election Commissions (Con.ECs), which in their turn checked the voters’ lists submitted by the PECs and reviewed statistical data presented by the relevant bodies. In the following stage CEC examined the encountered repetitions and inaccurateness via the 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 preserved 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 placed in the precincts for voters’ familiarization. Every voter is entitled to check their entry in the voters’ lists via direct transition or relevant search system and identify their 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 had possible channels in their disposal like calling the hotline # 115 to check their entries and to correct the irregularities or appealing to the Central Election Commission upon filling out the relevant online application form available on the website. The information received by these means was reviewed and updated as necessary upon the relevant investigation was held. Voters were entitled to apply to the relevant Con.ECs to check their entries in the voters’ lists throughout the whole update process.
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) not only during elections and within the limited period, but through the whole year. The relevant information on the dynamics of voters’ action was collected by Con.ECs and considered in the lists in timely manner.
From the day of announcing the referendum till the finalization of the processes, 551 appeals were received by the hotline # 115 and electronic hotlines functioning in regard with the election-related issues including voters’ lists and all of them were replied timely and CEC undertook all necessary measures efficiently. The filed appeals mainly concerned the checking of voters’ entries in the voters’ lists, making amendments as necessary, legal and other issues. In the case when the voters could not find their data in the voters’ lists, they sent their appeals to the Commission upon filling out an online application form or via the e-mails of structural departments. The relevant steps were undertaken after the appeals were identified in connection with local election commissions. Inquiries of the citizens who applied to hot lines regarding other election-related issues were also replied thoroughly.
Even though the dispersal of the internally displaced people settled within the country in all regions made the organization of their voting difficult, the voting rights of these citizens were also ensured as a result of great efforts and intense work.
Awareness-raising of different referendum stakeholders has been one of the priority issues to the CEC during the referendum. Many large-scale activities were implemented from the day of announcing the referendum up to the voting day.
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 has 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 for the members of Con.ECs and PECs regularly.
During the referendum a large 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 premises of CEC on August 18, 2016. During the event the officials of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, Milli Majlis, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Office of Attorney General, Constitutional Court and Supreme Court, as well as CEC members and Secretariat officials made presentations on various issues for the Con.EC chairpersons. The training program included the subjects on duties of local executive authorities in the process of preparing and conducting referendum and their bilateral activity with election commissions, constitutional basis and legal mechanisms of implementation of the right to participate in referendum, the roles of attorney offices in the protection of the election right, the roles and activity fields of the institutions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the referendum process, legal remedy of the election right, practice of investigating appeals and complaints in elections and referendum, requirements for making amendments and changes to the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, basic duties of Con.ECs and PECs after the voting ends, recent functional opportunities and rules of using the State Automated Information System, the arrangement of office works at Con.ECs and PECs and other issues. During the trainings, elections conducted in previous years and the " lessons learnt” were reviewed. The participants addressed the speakers with the questions interesting to them and acquired necessary information.
In the second stage of the project, professional courses on election right were conducted in regions for the secretaries, members of Con.ECs and PEC chairpersons on August 22-24, 2016. The number of the attendants in the 3-day courses was nearly 40-60, which allowed the representatives of lower election commissions to be more active and get responses to the questions interesting to them during the sessions. CEC representatives, Con.EC chairpersons, incumbent officials of the regional executive authorities, courts, attorney offices and police departments made presentations 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 referendum process. The courses attended by the representatives of international (foreign) organizations was broadcasted and publicized by mass media.
On August 31, 2016 a broad seminar on "Roles and duties of mass media in pre-referendum campaign process” was conducted with the co-organization of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Central Election Commission and the Press Council. During the event held for the heads and other representatives of the media outlets functioning in the country the CEC Chairman, incumbent officials of the Presidential Administration, Press Council and National TV and Radio Council, as well as CEC members made introductory speeches and presentations. The seminar attended by the CEC members, officials of the CEC Secretariat and Press Council as well, was broadcasted by mass media thoroughly. Meanwhile, a presentation on "General requirements for pre-referendum campaign, actors of pre-referendum campaign, the duties of mass media in the process of facilitating free and paid pre-referendum campaign” was heard by the participants and the questions interesting to them were responded to at the seminar.
CEC has always focused on for further improvement of professionalism level of the members of lower election commissions. To this end, broad trainings have been held by means of visual aids for lower election commissions since 2002. Since 2008 after the improvements of the project year by year, 2 local trainers trained for each election constituency jointly with the Venice Commission of the European Council have played a significant role in awareness-raising of Con.EC and PEC members for several years. During 2016 referendum a training project was prepared in 2 stages with the aim of awareness-raising of lower election commissions. In the first stage, CEC Training Group conducted "Training for Trainers” (ToT) in Baku on September 1, 2, 3 and 5, 2016. 250 local trainers from 125 election constituencies were trained on the voting day procedures including the voting process, exceptional cases, vote counting, filling out protocols and the cases which might be encountered on the voting day were also covered during the practical courses.
In referendum a new subject of special importance was included in the agenda of trainings. So, during the trainings the PEC members were explained the rules of using stencilled ballot papers to simplify the vote counting for each part of the ballot paper put in referendum and to facilitate counting of votes more accurately and easily. During the sessions the samples of ballot papers and stencilled ballots were demonstrated for the trainers thoroughly by placing the stencils above the ballot papers, adjusting and fixing the bars in the stencils to the parts in the ballot papers, making conditional notes in relevant empty squares in the stencils suitable with the marks put by voters in the ballot papers and finally, determining the number of votes after counting the marks put in squares in the stencils. During the event a vide clip prepared by CEC which embodied the rules of using the above-mentioned stencilled ballot papers was also played for the participants.
During the second stage involving the members of Con.ECs and PECs, the CEC Training group prepared special supplementary slides with the necessary information for the trainings and submitted them to the training groups on election constituencies. The second phase of the training for lower election commissions started since 12 September, 2016 and was conducted for small groups of 35-40 persons by using visual aids basing on the schedule submitted by the Training Group. The training had lasted for nearly 10 days according to the number of election precincts. During the trainings practical workshops were held for PEC members, they were explained the rules of using the stencilled ballot papers for the vote counting and provided with detailed information upon playing the special video clip on the usage rules. Each PEC member was provided with "Voting Day Guide”, protocol samples on the voting results and many other documents during the trainings. More than 32000 commission members participated at the trainings.
On September 2, 2016 the Central Election Commission jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted a training regarding the organization of the referendum outside the country. The issues on the organization of voting in the polling stations established in relevant diplomatic missions and consulate offices to ensure the voting rights of the citizens who resided outside the country and who are on long-term trip were discussed at the training. The CEC administration and colleagues, the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant structural offices for the voting arrangement in foreign countries, as well as relevant Con.EC chairmen participated at the seminar. The participants were thoroughly explained on the voting arrangement, rights and duties of PEC members on the voting day, transparency and openness in the referendum process, the voting day procedures and exceptional cases in the process, vote counting and sending results to the Con.EC upon their determination and other issues and the questions interesting to the participants were also responded to During the event broadcasted by mass media.
In the frame of the educational program for the referendum stakeholders, seminars aimed at raising awareness of the police on their role in the referendum were conducted by the Central Election Commission jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Baku and regions (Ganja, Shirvan and Shaki) on 5-15 September, 2016. 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 the referendum process as defined by legislation. Therewith, "Guide for the participation of the police in Referendum” co-prepared by CEC and the Ministry of Internal Affairs were distributed to the participants.
The representative of the CEC Secretariat held training for the officials of the Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) on September 7, 2016. The projects implemented by CEC regarding the conduct of referendum, as well as the organization of voting, local and international observation, the rights and duties of observers, participation of mass media in referendum and other issues were discussed with the participants and their questions were replied to thoroughly during the educational programs.
Another educational project regarding the referendum was implemented jointly by the Central Election Commission and the Ministry of Health on September 8, 2016 at the premises of CEC. The seminar on the organization of referendum in the territories temporarily settled by voters with health problems was attended by the CEC members, officials of the Ministry of Health and CEC Secretariat. The presentations on the classification of temporarily settled voters with health problems and establishment of polling stations, organization of the voting in those precincts, determination and publication of the results, duties of PECs on the voting day, voting procedures and other issues were heard and the questions interesting to the participants were replied to during the seminar.
One of the educational activities implemented during the referendum was conducted at the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice on September 14, 2016. During the seminar on the organization of voting in the detention institutions, CEC representatives provided the officials of the foregoing body with the detailed information and clarified the voting day procedures thoroughly.
The State Automated Information System – "Elections” Information System plays an important role in ensuring transparency of the process on the voting day. Practical trainings were held at CEC for the IT specialists of Con.ECs to get necessary skills and knowledge with the aim of using the network and relevant software properly. During the trainings, the IT specialists were provided with practical information on the improved network version of the "Elections” Information System to transmit the information to CEC, additional developments in the system and new opportunities. They were also trained on the rules of usage visually and the issues interesting to them were clarified. The specialists were facilitated to test the program modules, thereby acquiring practical experience leading to using the network professionally on the voting day.
CEC approved Calendar Plan for the basic activities and measures on the preparation and conduct of referendum after it has been appointed. The Calendar Plan prepared with the aim of implementing the basic activities and measures defined in the legislation subsequently and efficiently, rendering the referendum stakeholders methodical assistance and simplifying their activity during the referendum process was published in Azerbaijani and English languages and posted on the CEC official website for the free access of the referendum actors.
"Voting Day Guide” was published within the frame of awareness-raising of the referendum stakeholders to train the PEC members on the voting day procedures. The booklet contained detailed information on the roles and duties of the PEC members on the voting day, opening of polling stations, the activities in the voting hours, closing of polling stations, vote counting and filling out protocols on the voting results. The guidebook prepared basing on the provisions implied in the Election Code, instructions, rules and comments adopted by CEC was also posted on the website and distributed to the referendum stakeholders accordingly.
"Guide for Observers” was also published for the awareness-raising of observers in the referendum. The guide concluded the principles of observation and clarified the rights and duties of observers and included the issues to be abided by and banned by law for observers. The boklet prepared basing on the Election Code and normative acts was published in Azerbaijani and English languages, posted on the website and distributed to Con.ECs, referendum campaign groups, political parties and other organizations which had addressed for submitting to relevant bodies, local and international observers.
In the frame of the educational program for the referendum stakeholders, the Central Election Commission compiled the "Guide for participation of the police in referendum”. The Guide prepared jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs contained the detailed information on the roles and duties, also activities to be undertaken by the police during the fulfilment of their duties in the pre-referendum period and voting day, as well as in the process of transferring and protecting the official referendum documents. The guide was distributed to the relevant bodies and lower election commissions.
One of the main targets of the educational program carried out by CEC is voters. CEC implemented a broad and systematic campaign after the announcement of the referendum.Thus, the draft Referendum Act and Comparative Presentation of current and proposed texts of the changes to the Constitution, worked out by CEC to explain the issues put on the referendum were printed to be distributed to every family 45 days prior to the voting day, as well as posted on a large number of billboards installed in densely-populated areas within the territories of the polling stations and on the referendum day, inside the voting booths.
CEC implemented an intensive campaign for voters to check their entries in voters’ lists, also regarding the voting procedures in referendum, calling to referendum and to this end, cooperated with mass media closely. Therewith, "Check your name in voters’ list”, "Do not forget to check your name in the voters’ list”, "Hotline of the Central Election Commission – 115”, "Voters lists on the website” and other posters in 42 titles concerning education and calling to referendum were prepared and placed in densely-populated areas. Pursuant to the Election Code, the notifications containing the educational information on the address of the polling station to vote, place and date of the voting, the list of the identification documents to be used in the voting process, voting procedures and other issues were printed in accordance with the number of voters and distributed within the timeframe defined by legislation. Seven video and audio clips on different issues prepared by CEC, also a video clip on the Comparative Presentation of Referendum Act which were broadcasted regularly in TV and radio channels functioning in the country, also in large monitors installed in various areas were of great importance in awareness-raising of voters.
The formation of legal framework is of great importance to improve the election practice and to conduct free, fair and transparent elections. The publication of legal methodical means which played an important role in awareness-raising of the members of lower election commissions, also other election stakeholders was also focused on during the referendum. The instructions, rules and comments adopted by CEC were published in 4 collections and distributed to lower election commissions upon making relevant amendments to ensure the professional execution of the provisions implied in the election legislation, increasing the knowledge on the rights to participate in referendum.
Public awareness-raising has always played an important role for CEC. In the light of the referendum, CEC has intensified the relations with mass media further since the ends of July. The activity of CEC has been fully open to the mass media 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 activities and acquired necessary information regularly. CEC has held press conferences and briefings on different actual issues since the day of announcing referendum to raise public awareness on the preparation and conduct of the referendum, delivered information on all the projects to be carried out in the referendum to the mass media functioning in the republic and published press releases and articles. More than 60 briefings of the CEC Chairman, Commission members, Secretariat administration and officials were held for the TV channels functioning in the country and in their interviews they informed the community on the latest projects carried out and other activities undertaken for the preparations to the referendum and also replied to the questions of journalists.
More than 900 different materials on the sessions and activities held by the Commission from the day of announcing the referendum were published. Furthermore, 89 presentations by the CEC Chairman, Commission members and officials of the Secretariat were publicized by the mass media. Electronic and print media allocated much space for the CEC sessions, the arranged activities and the documents submitted. Different press releases, presentations and articles on the CEC activity and according to the Election Code, 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.
The presentations and interviews of the CEC representatives issued in press are also one of the projects aiming at raising the public awareness regarding the referendum. The CEC members and Secretariat officials have delivered educational presentations on different issues regarding the referendum at the "Khalgin sesi” ("People’s voice”) program broadcasted once a week at rush hours from July since the announcement of the referendum and furthermore, 7 large-volume educational articles by the Secretariat officials on different procedures related the referendum were published in the "Azerbaijan” newspaper.
Lower election commissions also made speeches in mass media regularly and in their interviews the Con.EC chairmen informed the voters on the activities implemented in the field of referendum preparations on the constituency level.
Transparency of the process plays a significant role in the conduct of free and fair referendum. In total, 53531 local observers were accredited to observe the referendum. 784 out of 1097 observers accredited by CEC to hold observation within the whole territory of the republic were representatives of non-governmental organizations, 111 – referendum campaign groups, 200 - on own initiatives and 2 persons were entitled to participate in the CEC sessions. Another group of local observers were accredited by the Con.ECs to observe within the territory of the relevant election constituency. The number of those observers reached 52434, 2695 of whose were representatives of political parties, 1046 – NGOs, 14718 – referendum campaign groups and 33975 – on own initiatives.
117 international observers representing 18 international organizations and 33 countries also joined the observation process. Both local and international observers were provided with relevant badges and as well as, "Voting Day Guide”, international observers were also presented the Election Code ,"Guide for Observers”, the map of the country and other necessary materials in English and Russian languages. Media representatives, international organizations and diplomatic missions functioning in the country were invited and informed on the CEC sessions and all activities in advance.
Along with the mass media means functioning in the country, 16 international media representatives also joined the process without any requirement of registration and played an important role in awareness-raising of the world community on the referendum.
Pursuant to the Election Code, Protection League of Labour Rights of Citizens (jointly with "AJF&Associates Inc.” (USA), Centre for Independent Consultation and Assistance for Civil Society (jointly with "Opinion Way” Sociological Research Institute (France), "ELS” Independent Investigations Centre and "Rey” ("Opinion”) Monitoring Centre applied to CEC to conduct exit-poll and all the applications were positively responded and the organizations were registered upon the discussion of the Commission members. The foregoing organizations held exit-poll on the voting day and the results of the exit-polls almost coincided with the official results by CEC.
The practice of using webcams which has been applied in the election history of Azerbaijan since 2008 and allowed to follow the voting process lively through internet was also continued in the referendum. Apart from all other means for ensuring transparency in the referendum, webcams were installed in 1000 (approximately in 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 has been adopted, the list of the polling stations with webcams was published and posted on the official website. On September 22, 2016 CEC Chairman and Minister of Communication and Informational Technologies visited the Centre for Technical Surveillance of Webcams, they get familiarized with the latest preparations of webcams and the readiness of the equipment. Internet users were able to monitor the voting process, vote counting and determination of results lively and incessantly through the webcams by the access to the CEC website either in the country or abroad.There were more than 115000 views via webcams to the voting and counting processes from different countries of the world on the referendum day.
After the referendum was announced, the citizens intending to establish referendum campaign groups held their meeting with the participation of the initiators and applied to CEC with a notification on the formation of campaign groups according to the timeframe and rules defined by legislation. In general, 5 initiative groups("New Azerbaijan”, "Civil Society”, "Municipality”, "Republic” and "Republican-Alternative”)intended to participate in referendum and all the groups were provided with signature sheets for canvassing. The"Republican-Alternative”initiative group did not return any of the documents required for the registration to the Commission. The"Republic”initiative group had not submitted sufficient number of valid signatures for the registration and that is why their registration was impossible. The process of receiving and checking the registration documents was conducted transparently and open to everyone. Campaign groups, the representatives of international organizations and mass media, as well as other interested participants were invited and granted full opportunity to participate in the processes. Consequently, three campaign groups("New Azerbaijan”, "Civil Society”, "Municipality”)were entitled to participate in the referendum process upon the registration by CEC. The relevant information on the campaign groups which had applied to CEC with a notification received signature sheets and registered on the Commission website and publicized regularly to ensure transparency in the registration process of referendum campaign groups.
Pre-referendum campaign started after the registration phase has been ended. Lower election commissions led by CEC and other relevant bodies implemented all activities within their competence to grant pre-referendum campaign actors the legally defined opportunities to hold their campaign and all the stakeholders were provided with equal opportunities to compete under fair atmosphere as in compliance with the rules implied in the legislation. Thus, 256 premises (128 indoor and 128 outdoor) covering the territories of all the election constituencies, were allocated for initiative groups to meet with voters and it was free of charge and required no permission. A lot of large-sized campaign boards were installed for the groups to locate the publication materials in the area of every polling station. The price list offered to the campaign stakeholders by the mass media means participating in the pre-referendum campaign was submitted to CEC, posted on the Commission website and the principle of equality for all the campaign subjects has always been focused on. The Public TV and Radio Broadcasting Company, financed by the state budget and the periodicals defined by the legislation also offered free airtime and space to the entitled stakeholders for campaigning.
CEC put all necessary steps for the conduct of free, fair and transparent referendum and informed the public on the referendum regularly. During the referendum campaign the Commission had conducted 10 sessions and generally, 40 decisions were adopted at those sessions. Decisions adopted within that period mainly embodied the approval of the "Calendar Plan for the basic activities and measures on the conduct and preparation of the Referendum in the Republic of Azerbaijan, appointed to September 26, 2016 to make changes to the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, the establishment of the Expert Group under CEC to investigate complaints against the actions (inactions) and decisions violating citizens’ election rights, as well as the establishment of the Working Group under the Commission, rules for preparation and number of the final protocols on the voting results of the election (referendum) commissions, rules for the text, format, number and preparation rules of notifications to inform voters on the place and date of the voting, the organization of awareness-raising of lower election commission members as in compliance with the "National Activity Program to increase the efficiency of protecting Human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, approved by Order of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, dated December 27, 2011, registration of referendum campaign groups, verification of members with consultative rights at CEC appointed by referendum campaign groups, registration of authorized representatives and agents, the organization of the out-of-country voting, consideration of an appeal to hold "exit-poll”, the installation of webcams in the polling stations, finalization of the referendum and declaration of the results, making amendments to the structures of some Con.ECs.
One of the main fields of the CEC activity is cooperation with international and foreign organizations. Different projects and meetings had been implemented and the opportunities of the future partnership were discussed in the frame of this cooperation. Up to several days to the voting day, meetings of the Chairman of the Central Election Commission were held with the members observation mission of CIS Parliamentary Assembly, delegations of the Austrian Parliament, Director of OSCE/ODIHR, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, international observers of the European People’s Party and other delegates, during the meetings experiences on referendum-related issues were shared and the perspectives of partnership in the fields of mutual interest were discussed. Furthermore, other representatives of CEC also conducted meetings with the delegates of international organizations.
Within the frame of international relations strengthened year by year, CEC representatives also participated in different international observation missions in elections (referendums) of foreign countries, thereby made presentations and replied to questions during international conferences, symposiums, seminars and other events.
A broad monitoring was implemented regarding the preparations to the referendum, the needs of Con.ECs and PECs were assessed and all necessary steps were put for the supply of lower election commissions. Thus, lower election commissions were provided with necessary printed materials, mobile and immobile ballot boxes to be used on the voting day, invisible ink boxes, ultraviolet lamp and spare batteries for them, voting booths, disposable security locks, specific bags for protocols, handbags for documents’ transfer, office materials and other necessary stuff and both Con.ECs and PECs were made ready for the voting day.
The format and number of ballot papers were approved by CEC and their printing started from August 8, 2016, thus in general, 5280924 ballot papers were printed within the time period and rules defined by law and they had been distributed to Con.ECs and from Con.ECs to PECs. The printed materials also included final protocols for Con.ECs and PECs. Therewith, the samples of final protocols were provided to PECs (30 copies to each) to submit to observers and other interested subjects.
Citizens of Azerbaijan living outside the Republic of Azerbaijan were also facilitated to implement their voting rights in the referendum through the establishment of 38 polling stations in the embassies, consulate offices and diplomatic missions of the Republic of Azerbaijan to foreign countries. Like other polling stations located within the territory of the country, those precincts were also provided with necessary referendum documents and other equipments and made ready for the voting day. By the Commission decision, the issue on inclusion of the voters registered in the polling stations established for the out-of-country voting during referendum in the lists on the election constituencies was discussed and a relevant decision was adopted.
The State Automated Information System – "Elections” Information System plays an important role in ensuring transparency of the process on the voting day. Technical supply and software of the "Elections” Information System 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 referendum. The program software was improved further to receive and work out, also to print the voters’ lists more effectively and to conduct relevant checks in the lists. The improved special program modules facilitated the checking of spelling mistakes in voters’ lists, revealing repetitions, founding out the identical information and elimination of technical errors, as well as implementing other analyzes and comparisons.
The technically improved local network version of the "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. The optic network between CEC and Con.ECs ensured more effective and easy information exchange with lower election commissions.
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 voting day – September 26, 2016. The information on voters’ turnout was transmitted to CEC via special software through the State Automated Information System and posted on the website five times on the voting day – at 10.00, 12. 00, 15.00, 17.00 and 19.00. The 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. Basing on the data received "online” from more than 70% of the polling stations, preliminary information on election constituencies was being delivered to the public within 5 hours after the voting has ended. The preliminary voting results was publicized basing on the protocol data on all polling stations in the country in the first half of the next day.
Immediately after the announcement of the referendum, Expert Group of the CEC members and professional lawyers was established as in compliance with the Election Code and Instruction worked out jointly by CEC and Venice Commission of the Council of Europe to investigate the appeals filed regarding the violation of the election right more efficiently, fairly and timely for the guarantee of citizens’ rights to vote and participate in referendum. CEC and lower election commissions had not received any official complaint neither in the preparation period for the referendum, nor on the voting day and the following period.In total, nearly 150 inquiries were addressed to the hotline # 115 and electronic hotlines, which concerned mainly the checking of the entries in the voters’ lists, addresses of polling stations and other similar issues.
The Con.EC voting protocols together with the attached documents had been delivered to CEC within 2 days after the voting day as in compliance with the rules defined by legislation and those documents, also other relevant materials were examined fully, thoroughly and fairly within the timeframe and rules defined by legislation.
On October 11, 2016, the referendum was ended at the session of the Central Election Commission, voting results protocol of CEC was compiled and approved upon being signed by the Commission members. The Commission adopted decision to invalidate the voting results fully in 3 polling stations and partly in one polling station, also in general, to dismiss 6 PECs due to the impossibility of determining voters’ will and failing to abide by the voting procedures in some polling stations. Since the voting results on other election constituencies were determined and tabulated properly, CEC decided to end the referendum upon approving the Commission Protocol on the voting results and to publish the text of the Act adopted via referendum after the referendum results had been declared.
All the information related elections and referendum 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, information on referendum campaign groups, structures of election commissions, addresses and map of election precincts, voters’ lists, information on pre-election (pre-referendum) campaign, press releases and other information of great public interest were posted on the CEC website.
The regularly updated website with all the necessary information on the referendum had been accessible for users in the whole referendum period. The users were able to get any information from the website. Furthermore, electronic services for voters in 10 different fields were integrated in the Electronic government portal besides the CEC website and were at the disposal of voters and other interested subjects. The CEC website had been viewed by more than118000users only on the voting day.
CEC reports were posted on the official website of the Commission in Azerbaijani and English languages and distributed to local and international (foreign) organizations via e-mail.