SYSTEM OF ELECTORAL ADMINISTRATION IN AZERBAIJAN IS NOT INDEPENDENT; REFORM SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED

In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of Gahramanli and Others v. Azerbaijan (application no. 36503/11) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case concerned complaints brought by the applicants, candidates for various opposition political parties, about electoral fraud and irregularities during the 2010 parliamentary elections. Their allegations included interference with the election process by electoral commission members, undue influence on voter choice, obstruction of observers and ballot-box stuffing.
The Court found that the applicants’ serious and arguable complaints, based on electoral observers’ first-hand accounts of alleged irregularities, had not been effectively addressed at domestic level either by the electoral commissions or by the courts. Indeed, the conduct of both the electoral commissions and courts – including the Constitutional Court – in the applicants’ case revealed an apparent lack of any genuine concern for combatting allegations of electoral fraud and protecting the applicants’ right to stand for election. Moreover, the Court found that the current system of electoral administration in Azerbaijan, which results in a particularly high proportion of pro-ruling-party members making up the structure of the electoral commissions, had been one of the systemic factors contributing to the ineffectiveness of the way in which the applicants’ complaints had been examined. The Court pointed out that it was now for the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which supervises the Court’s judgments, to follow up on the implementation of change to Azerbaijan’s electoral administration aimed at improving the effectiveness of the examination of individual election-related complaints. In particular, Azerbaijan should be encouraged to make an effort to reform the structural composition of electoral commissions.

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