OSCE Parliamentary Assembly not to send observers to Azerbaijan if ODIHR does not

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) decided last week that no OSCE PA delegation will deploy to observe the 1 November parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, in line with an earlier decision made by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The President announced his decision during the Assembly’s Autumn Meeting, saying on 17 September that if ODIHR would not send observers due to restrictions imposed by the Azerbaijani authorities, than neither would the Parliamentary Assembly.

Speaking at the PA’s Standing Committee meeting last week in Ulaanbaatar, President Kanerva said, “The Azerbaijan government has imposed restrictions on the work of our traditional OSCE partner, ODIHR. As a result, ODIHR has been forced to cancel their planned observation mission in Azerbaijan. I think it is only appropriate that if our very vital and close partner ODIHR cannot observe, that we also don’t observe in Azerbaijan.”

On 11 September, ODIHR Director Michael Georg Link said that restrictions on the number of observers being imposed by the Azerbaijani authorities would make credible election observation impossible in Azerbaijan. “Regretfully, we are compelled by these actions to cancel the deployment of ODIHR’s observation mission for the parliamentary elections,” said Link.

The Assembly’s decision was confirmed today by OSCE PA Secretary General Spencer Oliver. “As an OSCE participating State, Azerbaijan agreed in the 1990 Copenhagen Document to invite the OSCE to observe its elections. It is therefore regrettable that the authorities’ insistence on a restricted number of observers has undermined the effectiveness and credibility of our election observation. The President of the Assembly has announced that we will decline to send observers to these elections if ODIHR does not,” Oliver said.

Since 1993, more than 5,000 OSCE parliamentarians have observed nearly 150 elections in more than 30 countries.