OSCE/ODIHR breaches its mandate

3 November 2015 16:01 (UTC+04:00)

The November 1 parliamentary elections, which ended in Azerbaijan last week, opened up a new page in the country's public and political life and was seen by many international observers as a step forward for the country's democratic development.

The government had updated its election procedures by applying new technologies and had invited some 40 institutions to observe the polls. This demonstrated the country's commitment to international democratic principles and its strong will in ensuring transparency.

In light of this victory for democracy, the refusal of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) to deploy its mission of observing the elections was met with surprise.

The organization could not come to an agreement with the Azerbaijani government on the number of observers needed to monitor the election process. Its intention to send 500 observers to oversee a population of 9.6 million led to a disagreement with the Azerbaijani government, one that finally ended in the institute's refusal to observe the polls at all.

Is the number of observers that important for overseeing an election?

In making this absurd decision, the OSCE/ODIHR, in fact, overstepped its boundaries and violated its obligations.

Under the Helsinki Document, adopted in 1992, the OSCE/ODIHR’s primary role lies in helping member states implement their commitments in the field of human rights.

According to a decision made at the OSCE Budapest Summit in 1994, the OSCE/ODIHR’s mandate is to function as an advisor. Under the Budapest document, the ODIHR, in consultation with the chairman-in-office and acting in an advisory capacity, takes part in discussions with the Permanent Council and provide information on implemented projects. Acting in close consultation with the chairman-in-office, the director of the ODIHR may propose further action.

As can be seen from this mandate, the OSCE/ODIHR has no authority to make a unilateral decision without consulting the chairman-in-office and the corresponding member state. This once again shows that the ODIHR leadership, influenced by certain circles, deliberately politicizes technicalities, such as the monitoring of elections.

The evaluations of observers and experts from international organizations greatly affect the country's image and that of its authorities in the eyes of the national and international audience.

Perhaps for this reason, those engaged in monitoring the elections in various countries use their evaluations as an independent instrument of political pressure on the country.

In the case of the OSCE/ODIHR, which is supposed to uphold the preservation of democracy and human rights among its member states, the organization seems to have forgotten its true mission.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has also criticized the ODIHR's decision, saying the organization had grossly violated its mandate in deciding not to monitor the election without raising the issue before the Standing Committee of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and without informing the OSCE Secretary General.

Several international observers also slammed the OSCE/ODIHR's refusal to deploy its mission to Azerbaijan, regarding it as a politicized move.

This decision, in fact, demonstrated to the European community that the ODIHR has already become outdated as an institution from a political perspective.

The refusal to observe a parliamentary election by any organization will not cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the parliament, however, because the Azerbaijani citizens are the major decision-makers during this term.

The major legitimacy criterion for the country is to ensure each citizen can express their will in a democratic and independent manner without any pressure, in line with legislation to that effect.

The international and local election observation missions have confirmed that the parliamentary election in Azerbaijan was free, democratic, and reflected the voters’ will, while the election preparations and the voting process were organized at a high level. The voting process complied with the Electoral Code of Azerbaijan, and neither the Central Election Commission nor the international observers had any complaints about the electoral process.

The ODIHR, without a legitimate reason, deprived itself of expressing a position on the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan by violating its mandate and demonstrating unprofessional conduct.

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Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova

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