Novoye Vremya

The falsified elections can lead
to the outbreak of violence …

… considers Mr. Andreas Gross, co-reporter of the PACE Monitoring Committee on Azerbaijan.

Interviewed by Z. Rasulzade

Question: Mr. Gross, What can you say about your present visit to our country? How fruitful was it?

Response: I can say that in the autumn of this year an important event is expected, I mean parliamentary elections on which the further destiny of your country will be resolved. I know what importance is attached to these elections both by government and opposition. I would not like to see these elections as the struggle to the death. The competing parties should look at the elections as the normal procedure which results should be accepted by everybody. In Azerbaijan every elections are preceded by irritability. We beware of any moods, which can bring to unpredictable bad consequences. As we told to President of Republic our task is to prevent the fatal steps of those or other forces. Only stupid man can repeat his mistakes. We call upon to both government and opposition to avoid the mistakes committed on previous elections. We call upon both parties to refrain from violence otherwise the new bloody drama can take place in Azerbaijan and neither people of Azerbaijan nor Europe need this. And the falsification of elections is also the violence on the feelings of voters who come to vote with the hope for fair elections. We need stable and solid Azerbaijan. And the stability can be based only on democracy. I cannot imagine what expects Azerbaijan if the falsification repeats on these elections. Perhaps, Council of Europe will just bid farewell to Azerbaijan … But during our meeting President promised to do his best to hold these elections in democratic and transparent manner. In the end, this is important for him too.

But can President ensure the transparency of coming elections?

Of course, this depends not only on him … His team should help him in this. But as I heard it is not homogeneous. But during our meeting the President rejected these thoughts having called them as fantasy invented by Mass Media. I have got strong impression that President is in the mood to hold democratic elections. He agreed that the political struggle should not turn into the struggle to death … Politics consists of recessions and raises, losses and victories. One should not make a tragedy of this. After having lost one should get prepared for new elections to win them. And this should be a column of electoral system. As time goes by, the people will believe in it - one should only try. It is the duty of a state to arrange these elections so that the defeated party would not prejudice their fairness … Unfortunately, one has only to regret that in Azerbaijan there have not been held such elections. One can predict only two options: either fair elections and democratic elections or falsifications with inevitable bloody clash. I think every citizen of Azerbaijan is interested in first option.

Can the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan be considered as democratic?

Speaking frankly, the situation itself does not yet look as pre-electoral. May be, there is a much time left till elections - more than half a year. May be, political forces do not hurry to start the political campaign … In general all is quiet for a time being. But I would call this as a silence before storm. I have come to this conclusion after conversations with various political parties. During all these conversations I was feeling some aggressiveness. And where the aggressiveness is there it can cause the outbreak with sad consequences. In Azerbaijan nobody trusts anybody. It is a pity that up to now there has not started any full dialogue between authorities and opposition: this very important factor for elimination of tensions. Authorities should ensure the freedom of assembly and equal access of various political forces to electronic Mass Media. Opposition in Azerbaijan complains that the government does not give it any opportunity to inform the voters about its platforms. I think that these claims of opposition are fair. It is impossible to recognize the elections as democratic if only one party can enjoy all advantages - this not fair. People should make their choice having information about all political mosaics.

How do you estimate the appointment of Director General of Public Television?

It is a difficult question … Whoever I talked to among the representatives of opposition they expressed their dissatisfaction with appointment of Mr. Omarov to this post. Mostly, there was noted that society distrusts him and PT in general. However, I met with both Mr. Omarov and members of Council of PT. He told me that he would do his best to guarantee the independence of PT and open it for all political forces of country. He expressed his wish to do this before parliamentary elections to increase the authority of new channel. Let's see whether this man is sincere … Let the PT work and after this we will be able to make our conclusions.

What did our government tell you concerning the murder of Elmar Huseynov?

This is the tragic page in the history of Azerbaijan. This murder damaged hardly the image of your country. Both President and heads of law enforcement bodies are interested in disclosure of this crime. They told me that all forces have been directed at its disclosure. I think that Mr. Aliyev will do his best to disclose this crime because he is the most interested in this - he told me this during our meeting.

Can PACE appoint special reporter on this investigation as it was in case with Gheorghiy Gongadze?

I think yes. The only thing is needed is just the initiative of at least one member of PACE. During meeting with journalists we also were asked to submit in PACE such proposal. We promised to think but it would be better if such initiative would have been displayed by parliamentarians from Azerbaijan. We are more excited with fact that the investigation is being held under secrecy from society although the heads of law enforcement bodies assured us that round the clock they are working over disclosure of this crime. I want only to add that the disclosure of Haji Mamedov's gang has not only pleased but also excited us: the existence of such criminal structures in the governmental bodies is incomprehensible in democratic countries.

What can you say about revision of composition of electoral commissions?

I think that the principles of formation of electoral commissions should be in fact modified. Political forces do not trust each other. There are needed such electoral commissions which would reflect the parity among all political forces. Otherwise, there will outbreak the mutual accusations … Besides, all NGOs should be guaranteed with free participation in monitoring of elections. Sometimes, in Azerbaijan we note the unjustified interference of executive authorities with the process of holding of elections. This disturbs us very much and we told President about this. As a reply Ilham Aliyev said that he has some proposals in this regard and promised to send them to us on the next week.

What do you think has the issue of political prisoners been resolved in Azerbaijan?

At any way, Azerbaijan made significant steps in this direction. The latest was the recent act of pardon that was accepted by us with satisfaction. However, it is still premature to say that this issue has been resolved fully. We are upset with the fact that the convictions have not been withdrawn from pardoned persons and this precludes them from submitting their candidacy on elections.

Thank you for your interview.

Andreas Gross

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