Elections to the Milli Majlis – 2020

Unofficial translation


Elections to the Milli Majlis – 2020


Free and fair Elections to the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan, held on February 9, 2020 turned a significant public and political event in the contemporary history of the country. As an organization responsible for the preparation and conduct of elections, the Central Election Commission (CEC) implemented all its activity in a subsequent, systematic and effective way in accordance with the Calendar Plan, compiled and approved by the Commission, as in compliance with the requirements of the Election Code. Important stages of the election process - the update of voters’ list, improvement of legal framework, awareness-raising of all election stakeholders including voters, nomination and registration of candidates to deputy, providing broad opportunities for equal pre-election campaign, ensuring free and independent access for the activity of observers and mass media representatives, the voting arrangement, vote counting and announcement of the results upon the vote tabulation on Election Dayand all other duties implied in the Election Code were fulfilled accurately.

In general, many large-scale projects carried out were of great importance for the high-level preparation and conduct of the elections in accordance with the national legislation and up-to-date international standards.

Update of voters’ lists

Considering importance of voters’ lists in the elections, CEC focused on the update of voters’ lists as in compliance with the Election Code. Following the large-scale and comprehensive work undertaken in the atmosphere of close cooperation with the relevant bodies, involved by more than thirty thousand members of lower election commissions in the country, the voters’ lists were compiled and printed effectively upon the update, thereby delivered to lower election commissions within the timeframe defined in the legislation, also publicized for voters and broad community upon the display in the polling stations, as well as, on the CEC official website to ensure transparency.

To involve voters in the update process and increase further the quality of the works under implementation, an intensive campaign was carried out via different means including mass media and social networks broadly to this aim. So that, many large sized educational posters compiled by CEC related with the campaign for checking of entries in the voters’ lists were distributed within the whole territory of the country and were placed on a large number of billboards in densely populated areas. A video and audio clips prepared by CEC regarding the update of voters’ lists were displayed regularly on TV and radio channels and also placed on the Commissions’ official website and social pages.

Voters’ active participation and interest in the update process of voters’ lists, as well as, CEC hotline and availability of online communication service on the website facilitated inclusive check and update of the data. Along with all these, broad use of high technologies and special software with the developed technical possibilities increased further the efficiency of the works undertaken in the field of effective preparation, compilation and print of voters’ lists in compliance with high standards.

All the appeals filed to the permanently functioning hotline # 115 and electronic hotlines on the website, which have turned a reliable source for the election stakeholders were responded by CEC without delay and necessary steps were taken in due circumstances.

Although the spread of the internally displaced citizens to all the regions of the country caused difficulty in an arrangement of their voting, broad and inclusive opportunities were also provided for such voters to realize their voting rights after large efforts have been made. The internally displaced voters voted freely and independently in 523 polling stations established for their voting in different regions.

During the Elections to the Milli Majlis, necessary measures were also carried out in the field of creating effective and easy atmosphere for voters and other election stakeholders to implement their rights, as well as, making the voters’ number on some election constituencies and polling stations compatible with the representation norm considered in the legislations. 13 new polling stations on 4 election constituencies were established in compliance with the requirements of the Election Code. Meanwhile, the information on the boundaries of each election constituency and polling stations, voters’ numbers per polling station and composition of Constituency Election Commissions (ConEC) and Precinct Election Commissions (PEC) were publicized on the CEC website.

Monitoring the activity of election commissions

In the light of preparations for the Elections to the Milli Majlis, CEC held appropriate monitoring within a short period in regard with the activity and supplies of ConECs and PECs and undertook relevant measures to this aim. Thus, current priorities were defined following the analyses of the results of monitoring and the Commission prepared projects covering these fields and included them in the program of activity. Along with all these, lower election commissions were provided with necessary print materials, equipment to be used on Election Day for secure transfer of the documents, office materials and other important means, thereby made fully ready for the Election Day.

During the 2019 Municipal elections the practice of using the equipment was applied to read the information carrier chips to check the required digital data of voters as considered by the legislation, while voting by using the new generation ID cards issued to citizens since 2018 in Azerbaijan. The technical condition of the equipment was examined, usage experience was revised and necessary measures were undertaken in this field. Consequently, the voters with new generation ID cards enjoyed their voting rights securely also in the Elections to the Milli Majlis as in the Municipal elections.

Legal framework for elections

As an organization upholding the Constitution and the Election Code in its activity, CEC focused on the process of improvement of legal framework for the Elections to the Milli Majlis meeting high standards for free and fair conduct of elections, undertook purposeful activities in this field and adopted relevant decisions to make amendments to all legal documents adopted – instructions, comments and regulations. To ensure the conduct of awareness-raising of lower election commission members and other election stakeholders, professional implementation of the provisions in the election legislation and increasing the awareness on the election process, in total, 48 legal documents including the instructions, comments and regulations adopted by CEC were issued in 16 editions and distributed to lower election commissions and the interested subjects. All the legal documents were also posted on the CEC website, therewith in Azerbaijani and English languages.

Meetings within the framework of international cooperation

CEC functions in close cooperation with international and foreign institutions, within the frame of this relationship periodical meetings are held, mutual visits are arranged and possible perspectives for the implementation of co-projects regarding elections are discussed. During 2020 Elections to the Milli Majlis, CEC Chairman held meetings with the delegations of the organizations that joined the election observation – Parliamentary Assemblies of OSCE and Council of Europe, CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic - Speaking Countries (TURKPA), OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, CIS Observation Mission, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Turkic Council, parliamentary delegations of different countries, chairpersons of supreme election bodies of Turkey, Romania, Belarus, Lithuania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Kyrgyzstan, as well as, the officials of Central Election Commissions of Russia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Montenegro, Indonesia, Maldives. During the regular meetings on different levels with the representatives of the Election Observation Missions functioning in the country, views on different topics related to the preparations for the elections were shared and perspectives of cooperation on the fields of mutual interest were discussed. CEC also closely cooperated with local and international NGOs within the frame of different projects.

Educational projects for election stakeholders

The implemented large-scale projects carried out played an important role in the conduct of elections in compliance with national legislation and up-to-date international standards. According to the Order "On the approval of National Activity Program for the increase of the efficiency of protecting human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Azerbaijan” by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, dated 27 December 2011, the Commission prepared educational programs containing large-scale projects devoted to different fields and implemented with the attendance of international observers and mass media representatives.

Joint project with Baku representation of the Council of Europe for the mass media

The first educational activity in regard to 2020 Elections to the Milli Majlis was the joint project of CEC with Baku representation of the Council of Europe. During the information session devoted to "Broadcast of elections in media”, held on January 16, 2020 and dealt with the roles and duties of mass media outlets in ensuring equal pre-election campaign, was attended by CEC Chairman, official of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan, head of Baku representation of the Council of Europe, chair of National TV and Radio Council, chair of Press Council, as well as, heads and representatives of mass media outlets. The representatives of state bodies and diplomatic corps, international and local expert also participated at the event attended by nearly 60 media outlets. During the event, the speeches and presentations made by the CEC representative and international experts in regard with the legislation and practice of Azerbaijan in the broadcast of elections in media, the coverage of this field by media in the context of standards by the Council of Europe and gender equality caused great interest to the participants and the plenary session followed by broad discussions contributed to the awareness-raising of media representatives.

Seminars dedicated to the investigation of election-related appeals

Within the frame of CEC educational program, regional seminars held simultaneously in Baku, Ganja, Sumgayit, Nakhchivan, Shaki and Masalli on January 18 were dedicated to the investigation of the appeals on the violation of the electoral rights in the Elections to the Milli Majlis. The project targeted at increasing the awareness and improving further the professional skills of the Expert Group members functioning within the ConECs to investigate the complaints filed against the actions (inactions) and decisions violating citizens’ election rights in the Elections to the Milli Majlis. During the seminars, the speeches and presentations made by the members of the CEC Expert Group on different issues were introduced, the issues encountered in the appeals with claims on the violation of the election right, types of appeals and complaints, sequence of the activities to be implemented by the Expert Group members, adoption and compilation of decisions, as well as, other important issues were clarified thoroughly in presentations. During the practical workshops of the event involving 375 expert group members of ConECs, samples of different type of complaints and appeals on cases were reviewed, the adoption of decisions on those complaints by the appropriate election commissions was considered, discussions on different subjects were held and the questions interesting to the participants were responded.

Seminar-conferences on election dispute resolution

One of the most important educational projects implemented in the Elections to the Milli Majlis was regional seminars dedicated to jurisdiction of election disputes, held within the framework of the cooperation of CEC with Supreme Court and courts of appeal. The main goal of the events held in Baku on January 22, in Ganja, Nakhchivan, Shaki and Shirvan simultaneously on January 24 was to increase the awareness of ConECs on the election dispute resolution, to strengthen the effectiveness of the works undertaken to this aim and to ensure citizens’ election rights more effectively. The opening of the project and first seminar-conference, held in Baku started with the introductory speech by CEC Chairman followed by judge of the Supreme Court, chairs of Baku and Sumgayit Courts of Appeal. At the seminars attended by the CEC members and employees of the relevant structural departments of the Secretariat, chairs and judges of regional courts of appeal, as well as, chairpersons of ConECs, presentations and speeches made by the representatives of CEC, Supreme Court and regional courts of appeal on different subjects related to the election dispute resolution were introduced.

Trainings for members of lower election commissions

The Commission also focused on trainings for increasing the awareness and improving further the professional skills of members of ConECs and PECs. The first stage called "Training for Trainers” of the training project implemented in two stages, was held in Baku on January 23-26, 2020. At that stage, in general, 250 local trainers of the ConECs - two representatives from each of the election constituencies obtained clear and detailed information about all the Election Day procedures including the issues regarding the preparation of polling stations for the voting, the voting process, exceptional cases on Election Day, the vote counting and completion of the voting results protocols, etc. The demonstration of the Election Day procedures in format of mock exercise and clarification of the topics via practical workshops further increased the quality and efficiency of the trainings.

The second stage of the project considered for the PEC members started from January 27 and continued for a week in accordance with the number of the PECs on election constituencies. The trainings were held of practical format in small groups of nearly 36 lower election commission members pursuant to the schedule compiled by the CEC Training Group. All participants were submitted "Election Day Guide”, a blank sample of the voting results protocol and other necessary materials, prepared by CEC. The training project targeted to raise the professional knowledge of more than 32000 lower election commission members on Election Day procedures and improved their activity further.

Regional seminar-conferences for police jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs

CEC, jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, held seminar-conferences for the police officials from January 25 to February 1, 2020 pertinently in Ganja, Shaki, Shirvan and Baku cities covering surrounding regions, as well. The project was dedicated to further improvement of the official activity of the police in the election process during the Elections to the Milli Majlis. During the seminar-conferences the presentations by the CEC members, the Secretariat representatives and the representatives of the relevant bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were made. In their presentations, the speakers covered the topics of the protection of human rights, the election legislation, the voting process, the stages and timelines of the stages of the election process, the rights and duties of the police in securing the public order during the election campaign and on the voting day, undertaking security measures during the transfer of the ballot papers and other election documents to ConECs and CEC at the end of the Election Day. During the seminar-conferences a guidebook on the roles and duties of the police officials in the Elections to the Milli Majlis, compiled by CEC jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs were submitted to the event attendants.

Joint activity with the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice

One of many educational projects in the Elections to the Milli Majlis was organized with the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice on January 31, 2020. The seminar-conference attended by the administration of the Penitentiary Service, CEC representatives, the officials of the General Office and detention institutions of the Service was dedicated to the issues concerning the organization and conduct of the elections in prisons. The CEC representatives thoroughly covered the preparations for the Elections to the Milli Majlis, the conduct of the elections in penitentiary institutions in accordance with legal requirements and the voting day procedures, thereby responding to the questions of the conference attendants at the event.

Practical seminars for IT specialists

Seminars held for the specialists on informational technologies of the ConECs on February 1-2, 2020 were also an important educational activity. During the seminars devoted to prompt publicizing of the information on Election Day and ensuring transparency at that stage, the IT specialists were provided with detailed and comprehensive information on the general functions and the updated possibilities of the State Automated Information System. In the course of the seminars, the participants were also facilitated to test the special program modules in practical workshops to transfer the information on voter turnout on the Election Day, as well as the protocol data on the voting results in the Elections to the Milli Majlis to CEC. The questions interesting to them were broadly responded and practically clarified.

Voter education projects

Awareness-raising of voters was in the focus of the CEC in the Elections to the Milli Majlis and a number of projects were carried out in this field extensively. CEC held an intensive campaign via different channels focused on updating voter lists, the election process, voting procedures and participation in the voting and was closely cooperating with mass media in this field. Therewith, a large number of posters of invitation to elections or educational character such as checking names in the voters’ list, CEC website, hotlines and other issues were printed and displayed in an easily visible places of densely populated areas. Apart from all these, according to the Election Code, notifications containing the information about the address of the polling stations where voters will vote, place and time of the voting, list of the identification documents to be used in the voting process, the voting rules and other similar educational information were prepared accordingly and distributed to voters in accordance with the timeframe and rules defined in the legislation.

5 video and audio public service clips on the above-mentioned topics, prepared within the frame of CEC educational program for voters, were also regularly broadcasted in the TV and radio channels functioning in the country, also publicized on the official website and social pages of the Commission.

One of the important projects within the education program implemented by CEC, covered young voters. Steps put for since starting the election campaign in the field of the youth education and their involvement in the process, campaigned them to use opportunities by realising their innovative potential in the Elections to the Milli Majlis. Audio and video clips by CEC, broadcasted regularly on TV and radio channels, played an important role in the awareness-raising of the youth alongside with other groups of the electorate. As a result of such measures targeted at increasing the active participation of the youth, more than 45% of those who joined the elections as registered candidates were the Azerbaijani citizens under 40 with passive suffrage.

A number of projects were carried out jointly with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Azerbaijan with the aim of awareness-raising of youth and involve them in the election process more actively. During the large-scale events held with the support of CEC, covering Baku and many other regions of the country the participants were informed thoroughly on the electoral rights, preparations for the Elections to the Milli Majlis, the voting day procedures and other related issues. In the course of events, the questions interesting to the youth were discussed. 6189 youngsters were entitled with the right to vote for the first time in the Elections to the Milli Majlis.

Furthermore, CEC prepared special congratulation cards for 99 young voters entitled with the right to vote for the first time, within the project of "First time voters” and handed to the young voters aged 18 on February 9 – on Election Day while voting.

Within the voter education program, projects were carried out to campaign active participation of the Azerbaijani women in the Elections to the Milli Majlis, who were granted with the electoral rights for the first time in the Muslim East. Along with the video and audio clips demonstrated by CEC on TV and radio channels, broad dissemination of campaign materials in mass media also contributed to increasing women’s activity in elections.

Opportunities for voters with physical disabilities

Different projects are carried out in the elections held in Azerbaijan to ensure free participation of the voters with hearing, vision or mobility disability, along with all other voters’ groups in the election process, thereby targeting at active integration of this group of voters in society and providing equal opportunities for them as part of society.

For voters with vision disability to vote in the Elections to the Milli Majlis, stencils in Braille alphabet with the information of the ballot paper were prepared and every polling station was provided with these stencils. On Election Day, this group of voters could vote for any candidate they wanted upon using those stencils in free and independent manner without need of assistance. By the way, the practice has been applied in the elections held in Azerbaijan since 2003.

All the CEC video clips were prepared with subtitles for the knowledge of the voters with hearing disability. This project contributed to raising the awareness of such voters.

Mobile ramps installed for the voters with mobility disability to visit the polling station to vote freely. Following the survey held jointly with the relevant bodies in the country, the voters with mobility disability were defined in 1389 polling stations and mobile ramps were installed in those polling stations for the free movement of the voters with mobility disability and thus, polling stations were made convenient for such voters.

Apart from the above-mentioned possibilities, the voters who could not visit the polling station due to their health or other valid reasons were ensured to vote by mobile ballot box on Election Day in compliance with the Election Code.

Educational visual aids

After the Elections to the Milli Majlis have been appointed, CEC approved Calendar Plan to implement the basic activities and measures implied in the legislation subsequently and efficiently, to render methodical assistance to the election stakeholders and to simplify their activity in the election process. The Calendar Plan was distributed to the lower election commissions upon the publication, as well as, posted on the CEC official website in Azerbaijani and English for availability to all election stakeholders.

To render methodical assistance to the citizens intending to be elected to the Milli Majlis and simplify their activity to exercise their passive suffrage, CEC issued "Guide for candidates”. The booklet contained detailed information on the steps put for the candidate nomination and registration, rights and duties of the registered candidates for the parliament. The guidebook was distributed to lower election commissions and other election stakeholders to deliver to the interested subjects and also posted on the Commission’s website.

Within the educational program of election stakeholders, CEC issued "Election Day Guide” to inform further the PEC members on the Election Day procedures. The booklet contained detailed information on the roles and duties of the PEC members on Election Day, opening the polling station, activities to be implemented during the voting hours, closing the polling station, the vote counting and completion of the final protocol on the voting results. The Guide compiled on the basis of the provisions of the Election Code and the instructions, comments and rules adopted by CEC, was distributed to relevant addresses to deliver to the lower election commission members and other wishing election stakeholders and also posted on the Commission’s website.

"Guide for Observers” was also printed to raise awareness of observers in the Elections to the Milli Majlis. The publication contained the principles of observation, as well as, observers’ rights and duties. The booklet also provided detailed information on the obligations to be abided by, also banned steps for observers by law. The guidebook was worked out and published in Azerbaijani, English and Russian on the basis of the Election Code and legal documents approved by CEC, posted on the CEC website, also submitted to the relevant bodies to deliver to international observers, as well as, to ConECs, political parties and other organizations which participated in the observation process, to distribute to local observers.

CEC also prepared guide for police in the Elections to the Milli Majlis. The publication prepared jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, contained detailed information on the activities to be implemented by the police while fulfilling their official duties during the pre-election campaign, as well as in the process of transfer and protection of the election documents on Election Day. The guidebook was distributed to the relevant bodies and lower election commissions to deliver to the police officials.

The guide for the mass media representatives clarified thoroughly the rights and duties of the media representatives in the election process and pre-election campaign, thereby informing on the issues banned for them by the legislation. The mentioned guidebook was also printed and distributed to the mass media outlets, at the same time, the interested election stakeholders received the booklet through the CEC Independent Media Centre.

Public awareness-raising

Considering the importance of the Elections to the Milli Majlis for the society, transparency was fully ensured, as usual in the activity of CEC. The media representatives were informed in advance of the time of the CEC sessions and regularly invited to all the activities, also provided with necessary information. After the Elections to the Milli Majlis were appointed, CEC regularly held briefings on different current issues, delivered information on all the election-related projects to the mass media outlets functioning in the country and published press releases to raise public awareness of the country on the preparation and conduct of the elections.

Hundreds of different materials were published in mass media regarding the Commission’s sessions and organized activities since the day of appointing the elections. Additionally, statements by CEC Chairman, Commission members, as well as, the Secretariat officials were publicized on mass media. Electronic and printed media outlets also allocated much space for the CEC sessions, arranged activities and adopted documents. Regular press releases, statements and articles on the CEC activity were published in media outlets. In general, all fields of activities implemented by CEC were broadly covered by mass media.

Pursuant to the Election Code, the CEC decisions and other approved legal documents were published in "Azerbaijan” newspaper and posted on the CEC website. During the election competition CEC members and Secretariat officials made speech on different subjects regarding the Elections to the Milli Majlis on the educational program aired weekly at primetime on the Public TV. The project contributed to increasing the legislation-related knowledge and awareness of the election process actors.

Lower election commissions also regularly gave interviews to mass media. In their interviews, they informed voters on the works implemented in the election constituency and the preparation processes for the elections in relevant areas.

Independent Media Centre established by CEC in the Elections to the Milli Majlis also played an important role in complete and prompt awareness-raising of the society.

Massive informative materials were available through online platforms during the elections. All the election-related information was available on the Commission’s website (www.msk.gov.az, www.cec.gov.az, www.infocenter.gov.az). The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Election Code, all instructions, rules, comments and decisions adopted by CEC were posted on the website in the Azerbaijani and English languages. The information on the CEC activity, as well as on previous elections, the opinions provided by the Expert Group on the filed appeals and complaints, the relevant decisions of CEC and press releases on the session were placed on the website in Azerbaijan and English immediately after the Commission’s sessions. Apart from all these, the boundaries of the election constituencies and poling stations, voters’ search engine, routes to the polling station via special navigation software, information on candidates to the parliament, as well as, the information on voters’ turnout on election constituencies on Election Day and data of leading candidates, protocol data of election constituencies and polling stations, structures, addresses and contacts of election commissions, address and map of polling stations, voters’ list, information on pre-election campaign, press releases and other information of public interest were available on the CEC website.

The CEC website with all the election-related information updated regularly, was at the disposal of Internet users throughout the election process. They could get familiar with different type of information they wanted through the website. More than 566000 clicks to the CEC website were recorded just only on the Election Day. The Commission’s pages on social networks also functioned actively throughout the election campaign and the relevant information was posted on those pages as well.

Openness and transparency in elections

Elections held in the Republic of Azerbaijan always attracted broad interest of local and international community and were monitored regularly by various observation missions. Simple procedures implied in the Election Code, regarding the observers’ accreditation, fully facilitates any person or organization to be accredited by the relevant bodies very easily, thereby to monitor the process that contributes to ensuring transparency.

All relevant organizations, with a vanguard of CEC, implemented the necessary activities to ensure transparency in the Elections to the Milli Majlis. The practice of using web-cameras applied since 2008 in the country, which provided an opportunity of direct monitoring of the Election Day processes through Internet, was applied also in these elections. Web-cameras were installed in 1000 polling stations covering whole territory of the country excluding the then-occupied areas. On Election Day internet users could observe the voting process, vote counting and aggregation of the results lively from the beginning till the end via the CEC website without a requirement of any registration either within the country or abroad. On Election Day, nearly 230000 views were recorded through web-cameras, nearly 80% of which was within the country and 20% from abroad.

As in previous years, CEC also established Independent Media Center (IMC) within the framework of the project targeted at facilitating activity of electoral stakeholders of different status and rendering all necessary assistance to them, as well as inclusive and operative awareness-raising of the society on the Elections to the Milli Majlis. The media representatives were provided with full access to information and communication technologies, as well as free of charge and fast Internet service at the IMC functioning incessantly during the election period. Using the opportunity offered by IMC for them, international (foreign) and domestic observation missions also held press conferences at the IMC and delivered the election-related reports and opinions on Election Day and the following days. The website of the Centre – www.secki-2020.az regularly functioned in Azerbaijani, Russian and English languages, playing an important role in publicizing different information on the electoral process, including opinions, comments and statements by representatives of different organizations and experts, as well as photo and video materials.

Monitoring of the election process by a large number of observers showed interest of the community to the Elections to the Milli Majlis. Nearly 90000 election stakeholders with different status, including commission members with consultative right, authorized representatives, agents, etc. were entitled to observe the work of PECs on the voting day. In general, 77790 local observers were accredited to monitor the elections. 1250 out of 4264 local observers accredited by CEC to conduct observation within the whole territory of the country, represented 4 non-governmental organizations, 943 persons 5 political parties and 2071 persons joined election observation on their own initiatives. ConECs accredited 73526 observers and 34152 out of them represented 24 political parties, 1487 persons 16 non-governmental organizations, 13099 persons parliamentary candidates and 358 persons voters’ initiative groups. 24430 persons took part in the observation of the elections on their own initiatives.

883 international observers representing 59 international (foreign) organizations and 58 countries also took part at the observation process. Both domestic and international observers were provided with relevant badges, necessary methodical materials in regard with elections and other aids. Along with the mass media representatives, international (foreign) observation missions, international (foreign) organizations and diplomatic representations in the country were also informed and invited in advance to the CEC sessions and other activities implemented and they participated permanently at the sessions and events.

Alongside with local mass media, which required no registration, 199 representatives of 132 international mass media outlets got accredited and followed the elections to the Milli Majlis, playing an important role in the dissemination of information to the international community on the elections.

Pursuant to the Election Code, all the applications addressed to CEC to hold exit-polls, were responded positively upon the discussions at the Commission sessions and Citizens’ Labour Rights Protection League (jointly with the US "AJF&Associates Inc.”), "Opinion Monitoring Center” Ltd. and "Human Rights in the XXI century – Azerbaijan” Foundation (jointly with the French "Opinion Way” Sociological Research Institute) were accredited to hold exit-polls. The results of exit-polls by the organizations on the Election Day almost overlapped with the official results by CEC, taking into account the margin of error.

Nomination and registration of candidates

After the Elections to the Milli Majlis were appointed, all citizens with passive suffrage intending to participate as candidates obtained signature sheets upon their appeal to the ConEC and submission of necessary documents. CEC submitted blank forms to ConECs, those were necessary in the process of candidates’ nomination and registration, thereby contributing to the simplification of the procedures and the activity of citizens intending to participate as candidates. The guidebook compiled for candidates to deputy played an important role in this work. Election commissions regularly rendered assistance to candidates to eliminate irregularities found in the documents and fully facilitated them to this aim. The process of examining candidates’ documents was held in open and transparent environment for all the interested subjects. The authorized representatives of political parties and candidates, representatives of international observation missions and mass media outlets were regularly invited to the checking process of documents and fully enabled to monitor the processes from the beginning till the end and familiarized with the documents closely. Generally, being much interesting to the public, candidates’ registration process ended successfully with the active participation of large number of candidates nominated by 19 political parties, taking part in elections, as well as nominated on own their initiatives and by voters’ initiative groups. Pursuant to the Election Code, 1637 out of 1676 persons, who intended to continue competition for the 125 seats in the parliament and submitted necessary documents to the ConECs, were registered and this number became one of the highest indicators in comparison with all the parliamentary elections held in Azerbaijan. The disputable issues concerning the irregularities in the documents throughout the registration process, were settled down by election commissions in favour of candidates upholding the spirit of the law. Taking this principle as a basis, the candidacies of 9 persons, whose registration had been refused by the ConECs, were registered by CEC. And it was impossible to register 39 persons, whose documents were revealed to have contained serious legal violations. 323 out of candidates decided to stop their competition during pre-election campaign after they have been registered and consequently, the entries of 1314 candidates were included in ballot papers. 246 out of 1314 candidates, who continued election contest, were nominated by 19 political parties, 11 persons by initiative groups and 1057 candidates joined the elections on their own initiatives.

The information on the development of candidates’ registration process and about candidates, who joined the elections, was posted in an open platform for everybody on official website of the CEC and transparency was fully ensured. The information on the nomination and verification of candidates, issuance, return and registration of signature sheets was transmitted through special software directly from the ConECs to the CEC website and made public. Being updated daily, statistic data and records played an important role for both the election process stakeholders and society to get detailed and inclusive information on the process.

More to the point, the format and number of ballot papers in the Elections to the Milli Majlis were approved by the CEC decision on January 4, 2020 and ballot papers started to be printed from January 27, 2020. Generally, 5387600 ballot papers were printed in an environment that was accessible for the representatives of observation missions, international and foreign institutions, as well as, mass media outlets within the rules and timeframe defined in the legislation. Ballot papers were distributed together with the Con.EC and PEC protocols on the voting results, to ConECs and from ConECs to PECs from February 2, 2020. Therewith, 30 sample copies of the final protocols were provided to each PEC to submit to observers and other interested election stakeholders.

Pre-election campaign

To ensure the opportunities considered in the legislation for the pre-election campaign subjects to hold their campaign in the Elections to the Milli Majlis, lower election commissions and other relevant bodies with forefront of the CEC, implemented all activities in compliance with the legislation within their competencies and condition for equal pre-election campaign, which was one of the important factors for free and fair elections, was established.

The persons intending to stand for candidacy started to deliver their pre-election messages to voters upon using different online platforms including social networks, even before the official campaign phase started - since the day of appointing the Elections to the Milli Majlis. They held campaign via social networks, web portals and online media without any obstacle, freely and independently through the whole election campaign period. Furthermore, as one of the pre-election campaign opportunities, 272 permanent venues (136 indoor and 136 outdoor) were given to disposal of candidates within the whole territory of the country as in compliance with the Election Code and candidates to parliament held their pre-election meetings with their voters, using those areas freely upon only informing the ConECs. Candidates also had possibility to use other relevant places not prohibited by the legislation and specially preferred local gathering and door-to-door grassroots meetings, along with assemblies in the designated permanent venues to deliver their pre-election platforms to their voters. Therewith, during pre-election campaign more than ten thousand of large-sized billboards installed by election commissions along with other places to display posters and other printed materials, were given to disposal of the campaign actors. The candidates also got a broad opportunity of using mass media to deliver their election platforms to voters. The pricelist offered to candidates by 40 mass media outlets for the payable airtime with the aim of campaign, was submitted to CEC and this information was posted on the Commission’s website for the candidates to get familiar with and observance of the equality of terms for all candidates was constantly kept in focus.

Particularly, candidates also preferred to deliver their pre-election messages to voters upon using electronic information platforms – social networks, web portals and others in these elections in Azerbaijan, where more than 80% of the population have an access to internet, web services and social networks are fully and easily reachable and the number of online media followers has increased considerably.

The campaign, which started from January 17, was held in open competition with the high activity of political parties and independent candidates and ended at 08:00 on February 8, 2020.

Election Day

All of 5573 polling stations in the country were ready for the voting day in the Elections to the Milli Majlis and declared open for the voting at 08:00 on February 9, 2020 in compliance with the legislation. By visiting the polling station, voters expressed their will freely and independently and 46,84 % of voters cast their votes on the voting day. Pursuant to the Election Code, on the Election Day the information on voters’ turnout was transmitted to CEC for 5 times via the special software of the State Automated Information System and publicized directly on the Commission’s website. On Election Day the representatives of local and foreign mass media were provided with all opportunities to connect to live broadcast for informing the public on the election results through direct broadcast in the CEC conference hall. All the TV channels functioning in the country aired live interviews and news releases to cover the activity of CEC and lower election commissions during the day and took part by directly monitoring of processing of the data entered to CEC. The elections were held in peaceful atmosphere and after polling stations were closed at 19.00, the vote counting was held incessantly. Basing on the information received from 4823 (approx. 87%) out of 5573 polling stations in the country, the information on preliminary voting results and leading candidates was publicized for local and international community to get familiar with the election results within several hours after the voting ended. As soon as the vote counting and tabulation processes finalised, the protocol data from polling stations in the country was being transmitted to CEC and publicized directly on the Commission’s website instantly.

No official appeal or complaint was filed to CEC on the voting day in the Elections to the Milli Majlis. In general, nearly 300 informative inquiries entered to the Commission’s hotline and e-mails, were responded efficiently and necessary measures were taken timely.

The final voting results protocols and other election documents attached to them were delivered to relevant superior election commissions pursuant to the rules and timeframe defined by the law.

Election dispute resolution and finalizing elections

In the Elections to the Milli Majlis, 47 appeals were filed to CEC up to the voting day and during the post-election period, 122 appeals on the voting and results in some polling stations were received. Relevant decisions on substance were adopted upon the comprehensive investigation of all the appeals in compliance with the Election Code. The members of the CEC EXPERT GROUP in accordance with the legislation implemented the investigation of appeals with the participation of the plaintiffs. Meanwhile, the wish of the interested sides and the subjects with different status to be involved in the process and to observe, was fully ensured. The information on all the stages of the investigation process (the registration number of appeals, time and date of receipt, information about the plaintiff and the theme of the appeal, an opinion by the investigating member of the CEC Expert Group investigating the complaint, measures undertaken and decision on the complaint, adopted by CEC) was posted on the Commission’s website instantly and the full transparency of the process was ensured. The presentations of the Expert Group members on the results of the investigation of each complaint and claims of the plaintiff was announced and discussed thoroughly with the presence of the interested parties in the open sessions of CEC and decisions based on the final conclusion of the investigation was adopted by the Commission in its sessions. Like all other sessions of the Commission, the sessions dedicated to the investigation of appeals was also held with the attendance of the representatives of mass media outlets, international organizations and other competent subjects.

Consequently, based on full, transparent and comprehensive investigation of the protocols and attached documents submitted by ConECs, appeals and information entered to the CEC’s hotlines, as well as, the materials posted on social networks, along with official complaints filed to the Commission, the Elections to the Milli Majlis were invalidated in Khatai first constituency # 33, Khatai third constituency # 35, Lankaran village constituency # 74 and Imishli-Beylagan constituency # 80 by the decision of CEC and in general, the voting results on 328 polling stations were annulled. 87 PECs were dismissed due to the irregularities allowed in their activities during the preparation and conduct of the elections and aggregation of the results.

After all the appeals filed in regard with the Elections to the Milli Majlis have been investigated and relevant decisions were adopted upon the consideration at the sessions with the participation of international observers, foreign institutions, media representatives, as well as, the overwhelming majority of plaintiffs, at the session held on February 25, 2020, CEC considered the works on defining the general results of the Elections to the Milli Majlis finalized and final protocol of the Commission on general election results was compiled and approved upon the signature of all the Commission members.

Pursuant to the Election Code, CEC Protocol on general results of the Elections to the Milli Majlis together with relevant documents was submitted to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan by the Commission’s decision for the approval of election returns on February 25, 2020. The results of the Elections to the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 121 election constituencies held on February 9, 2020, were officially approved at the session of the Plenum of the Constitutional Court held on March 5, 2020.