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Azerbaijan: Violations reported as parliamentary elections approach

As parliamentary elections approach in Azerbaijan, candidates go through the final registration process. However, the process has not been without allegations of violations and the frustration not only of candidates, but also of observers and local activists. One example of this is from Parvana Persiani, an active member of the OL! Azerbaijan Youth Movement and the girlfriend of imprisoned video blogging youth activist Adnan Hajizada, who tweeted an alert which was also spread on Facebook.

For many online users, the news that followed was shocking. According to Majidli's own personal tweets, his relative, who works at the 94th Berde constituency from which he is planning to run for election, stole 12 out of 15 signature leaflets. The candidate expressed his frustration with the current regime and how it had damaged his personal family relationships via Twitter.

The situation in Berde is getting worse again. My own relative ran away with signature flyers. The regime makes a relative fight a relative, brother fights brother.

I am living the worst shame in my life. I have no other choice but to report on my own relative.

My phone has been under surveillance for the last 4 days. There is pressure. They are using the most immoral and shameful ways. This is what this regime, this government is about.

Several bloggers commented on the incident, including Orhan Aip [AZ], a talented photographer and blogger. His post was entitled About betraying the nation.

Azərbaycan sanki hansısa dəlinin yuxusudur. Burda təkcə şüuraltı yox, xəstə arzular, sərhəd tanımayan əclaflıqlar da böyük əhəmiyyət daşıyır. Əyalətdən deputatlığa namizəd Elnur Məcidlinin 15 imza vərəqindən 12`si qohumu tərəfindən oğurlayıb.

Məgər əyləncəli deyil? Azərlər çürük patriarxal dəyərləri, qohumluq ənənələri ilə öyünən qövmdür, amma hər şeçki ərəfəsində qohum-qohuma qarşı belə şərəfsizlik edir – ailəsi, yaxın qohumları tərəfindən müxalifətçilərə namizədliklərini geri götürmək üçün təzyiq göstərilir, hətta arvadları evi tərk etməklə belə onları hədələməkdən çəkinmir. Bu iqtidar-müxalifət mübarizə deyil, bu fərd ilə kütlənin qarşıdurmasıdır. Kütlənin mübarizə vasitəsi isə həmişəki kimi qurşaqdan aşağı zərbələrdən ibarətdir.

It is as if Azerbaijan is the dream of some crazy man. Here it is not only the subconscious, but also sick desires and unlimited ugliness which is of vital importance. Elnur Majidli, a candidate running from one of the provinces, had his signature leaflets stolen by his very own relative.

Isn't this fun? Azeris speak of their rotten patriarchal values with pride of their strong ties with relations, and yet, when election time comes, such infamy is persistent – families and relatives of candidates running from the opposition are subject to pressure to withdraw their candidacies. There are instances where wives even threaten to leave home. This is not a ruling [government] vs. opposition struggle, this is an individual vs. public struggle […]

Another blogger from Azerbaijan, Vafa Cafarova [AZ], also comments on the incident in a post, “Elections in a banana republic – brother vs. brother:”

[…] Təsəvvür edin necə ölkədə yaşayırıq? İllərdir tanıdığımız, güvəndiyimiz insanları müxalif düşərgədən olan namizədlərə qarşı istifadə edirlər. Qazandıqları qəpik – quruşları əllərindən alacaqları ilə  namizədin qohumlarını təhdid edirlər ! Hər dəfə olduğu kimi, işdən qovulma və şəxsi biznesin əlllərindən alınacaqları təhlükəsi ilə insanlar imtahana çekilirlər!

Kütlə […] heç kimin deyişiklik gətirəcəyinə inanmır […] onlar sadəcə bu seçkilərədən İlham xan və onun əyanlarının süfrəsindən onlara da pay düşəcəyini gözləyir.

[…] Imagine in what kind of a country we live? People whom we have known and trusted for years are used by the other side. They threaten candidates with taking salaries already worth nothing from their relatives. They test candidates with threats to fire or annul jobs and businesses […] And the public has already accepted its loss. The public does not believe that anyone could bring change […] They think that they will get their portion from Ilham Khan and his servants’ victory platter […]

And recent reports indicate that Majidli is not the only one. According to Radio Free Europe Radio/ Radio Liberty, other candidates not aligned to the ruling regime are also experiencing problems.

I had my master's degree diploma from Harvard and I was not able to verify that this diploma is a legal document in the republic of Azerbaijan,” Bakhtiyar Hadjiyev, an Azerbaijani citizen and public policy graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.

[…] to his surprise, his electronically signed master's degree from Harvard was rejected by the Azerbaijani authorities despite the fact that electronically signed documents enjoy the same status as handwritten ones under Azerbaijani law.

[…]

[…] Local constituency No. 17 refused to recognize his electronically signed employment contracts with the World Bank and Education Development Center, which were required to prove his financial standing. As a result, his request for candidacy registration was turned down.

With just a little over than a month left for the elections, many hope to hear less about obstacles and more about improvement in in the electoral process in countries such as those in the South Caucasus. For now, however, alternative voices and bloggers do not appear convinced.

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