3.4. The PACE mission as the only official European observation mission in the 2015 parliamentary elections

At that time, there were quite powerful anti-Azerbaijani forces in PACE. These forces were trying by all means to prevent PACE from observing the 2015 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, the European Parliament, the OSCE PA and the OSCE/ODIHR were not just rejecting to observe the 1 November 2015 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan but these international institutions were also putting strong pressure on PACE to make it avoid from observing the elections. The sole purpose of such an unfair isolation was to form a negative image of Azerbaijan worldwide, put political pressure on our country under the pretext of human rights issues, to destabilize the country and make us to forget the fate of our occupied territories.

Simultaneously, the European Parliament, PACE, as well as the OSCE PA knew very well that their positive assessment of the outcome of the 2013 presidential elections in Azerbaijan was real and Azerbaijan was confidently moving in the way of democracy. Simply, they did not want to see this reality once again and declare it to the world and to witness democratic, transparent and free elections in Azerbaijan. Therefore, they were trying to blackmail Azerbaijan by means of isolation and political pressure.

PACE under pressure scorned thrice own decisions on sending an observation mission to the 1 November 2015 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. To this end, the decision on this issue, adopted in the PACE Bureau and approved at the session, was repeatedly referred up to the Bureau for consideration.

Thus, during PACE’s June session, it was decided to send an election observation mission (EOM) to observe the 2015 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. The election observation mission was made up of 32 people, namely, 30 PACE members and two co-rapporteurs. Jordi Xucla, the leader of the ALDE Group, was appointed the head of PACE election observation mission.

Even in June, the plenary meeting of the Assembly during the discussion of “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan” report mentioned the possibility for other European institutions to revoke decisions to send election observation missions to Azerbaijan.

The Assembly made a decision by voting that in case if other European institutions cancel sending an EOM to Azerbaijan, PACE should increase its mission. The Assembly also rejected a proposal to review the issue of sending PACE EOM in case the OSCE/ODIHR did not do so. Thus, taking steps that opposed PACE’s latest decision and a proposal to cancel this decision was a very bad political practice. This was disrespect for the Assembly and to the Council of Europe as a whole.

On the other hand, PACE had a practice to observe the elections as the only Western institution. The OSCE/ODIHR, the OSCE PA and the European Parliament had not sent observation missions to the 2 March 2008 presidential election in the Russian Federation. The PACE observation mission was the only official Western election observation mission in this election and Swiss MP Andreas Gross (SOC) was heading the PACE EOM.

Despite the abovementioned, at the June session, PACE President Anne Brasseur and Secretary General Sawicki on the formation of the observation mission made a note “in case if the OSCE/ODIHR is not invited” in the protocol. This note was about the reconsideration of this issue at the 31 August meetings of the Presidential Committee and the Bureau. Backed by the anti-Azerbaijani forces, under various pretexts, each time, Anne Brasseur and Wojciech Sawicki were seeking to gain reconsideration of the issue on observation of the 2015 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan and to cancel the previously adopted decision.

At the Bureau meeting on 31August 2015, this issue was re­ considered and the Bureau once again approved the composition of the organization’s election observation mission (EOM) for the parliamentary elections to be held in Azerbaijan. At that time, the Azerbaijani government had already invited the OSCE/ODIHR to observe the elections. Nevertheless, Sawicki made the next falsification to the protocol of the 31August Bureau meeting.

Without any prior consent of the Bureau and without any discussions, Sawicki included in the protocol of the Bureau meeting a phrase “…considered the situation against the background of an invitation of the OSCE/ODIHR”. And thus, he wanted to pave the way for the dependence between the PACE and the OSCE/ODIHR on the issue of sending the observation mission.

I should note that multiple “discussions” in PACE around the observation of the elections were the sign of discrimination against Azerbaijan and the reflection of double standards policy. Thus, PACE had a commitment to Azerbaijan on the observation of the elections. In addition, Azerbaijan is a state under PACE’s monitoring procedure. According to the Rules of Procedure, the observation of the elections in a member state under the monitoring procedure should be an inalienable right of the Assembly.

Therefore, the observation of the elections in Azerbaijan was of utmost importance not only for Azerbaijan, but also for PACE itself. Consequently, his would have proved PACE’s capability to build its relations with a member state on the basis of good and mutual understanding. This would have also confirmed that PACE was a genuine supporter of an open and constructive dialogue with Azerbaijan at the organizational level.

However, despite the growing anti-Azerbaijani campaign at European institutions, PACE’s pre-election mission paid a visit to Azerbaijan on 21-22 September. The mission held meetings with political parties represented in and out of the parliament, human rights defenders, NGOs, civil society activists and media representatives.

Even after this trip, enemies of Azerbaijan in PACE were again intending to realize their wish to reconsider the PACE decision on the EOM and to use every opportunity for the cancellation of this agreement. However, their malicious plans did not come true.

Consequently, the PACE observation mission, consisting of 32 members of five political groups, observed the parliamentary elections on 1 November 2015 and made the following assessment by issuing the below statement:

“The elections were held in accordance with the Election Code of Azerbaijan, which provides a legal framework for the democratic conduct of the elections. The Election Day was calm and peaceful across the country and that the voting process was observed to be adequate, and generally in line with international standards. The observation mission congratulates the people of Azerbaijan on holding calm and peaceful elections. The preparation for the elections and the voting processes were professionally and technically well organized. Throughout the Election Day, no major or systemic violations of the Election Code were observed. Summarizing its observations, the mission concluded that despite a number of shortcomings in the 1 November parliamentary elections, the significant increase in voter turnout and the increased transparency of voting and counting procedures demonstrated another step forward taken by the Republic of Azerbaijan towards free, fair and democratic elections. It also concluded that the result of this vote expressed the will of the Azerbaijani people.”

This assessment by the PACE uncovered the inner face of the European Parliament, the OSCE PA, and the OSCE/ODIHR that boycotted the 1 November elections, and consequently, exposed their malicious intentions. I should note that PACE was the only European parliamentary institution that sent official observation mission to Azerbaijan for the referendum on the amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan held on 26 September 2016.

The decision on sending an official PACE delegation for the observation of the referendum was taken at the meetings of the Presidential Committee and the Bureau held in early September. It was agreed to compose the PACE observation mission of the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee and one member from each of the five political groups. Under the decision of the PACE Bureau, the formation of the delegation was mandated to PACE President Pedro Agramunt. After reaching an agreement with the chairpersons of the political groups on 15 September, he formed the official observation mission made up of seven members.

The PACE mission concluded that the referendum was organized in accordance with the country’s legislation and the constitution of Azerbaijan and it was legal and legitimate. The statement by PACE mission highlighted that the results of the referendum on amendments to the constitution express the willingness of the people of Azerbaijan to take a step forward towards the secure, stable and sustainable development of their country and to target the establishment of a more efficient system of governance and the implementation of more meaningful reforms needed for the country to respond to the democratic and economic challenges facing it.