February 10, 2020 / 11:34 AM / 15 days ago

Azerbaijan election marred by violations, say international observers

FILE PHOTO: A woman casts her vote at a polling station during a snap parliamentary election in Baku, Azerbaijan February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

BAKU (Reuters) - A weekend parliamentary election in Azerbaijan was marred by numerous procedural violations, raising serious doubts about how free or fair it was, international observers said on Monday.

Partial results from Sunday’s snap parliamentary election showed Azerbaijan’s ruling party was leading in the vote, which President Ilham Aliyev called to consolidate power and speed economic reforms.

But international observers questioned the election’s integrity.

“While the authorities stated to the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) that there is a political will to organise elections in a free and fair atmosphere, many IEOM interlocutors have expressed serious concerns regarding respect of fundamental rights and freedoms,” they said in a statement.

“Significant procedural violations during counting and the tabulation raised concerns (about) whether the results were established honestly.”

Monitors said that what they called restrictive legislation and the general political environment had prevented genuine competition.

“On election day, voting was assessed negatively in 7% of polling stations observed, a statistically high figure which is indicative of serious procedural shortcomings,” they said in the same statement.

Some observers reported cases of ballot box stuffing.

Reporting by Margarita Antidze; editing by Andrew Osborn

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