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SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor
BAKU, Azerbaijan, October 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Just days before nearly five million Azerbaijanis go to the polls to choose their President, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has admitted that "the campaign has been generally calm."
But it also noted that the poll was "characterised by the absence of substantive debate" in its report, which was branded "contradictory" by the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre (ESISC).
It analysed the latest ODIHR report, which was released ahead of Wednesday's election, and accused it of both "Azerbaijan bashing" and issuing praise. For example, ODHIR criticises the campaign for the lack of a pre-election debate but then admits the incumbent, President Ilham Aliyev, has correctly waged his re-election bid by emphasising "regional stability and economic progress."
In the ESISC's detailed response to the ODIHR paper, it highlights many such apparent contradictions and anomalies. The ODHIR report, it says, focuses on the three candidates that were rejected by the Central Election Commission. But that still left a field of ten Presidential candidates who were approved, a number more than compatible with Presidential races in other democracies.
ODIHR also turned its attention to sporadic cases of pre-election violence, which, the ESISC points out, are regrettable but have been no worse than the violence that characterised the last Presidential election in France.
If such cases are "isolated, unusual and firmly condemned by society," the ESISC concludes, "then democracy is not at risk."
The ODIHR report - published at the end of September - was at times very positive in its praise of Azerbaijani election preparations. ODIHR's observer mission says it visited "all 125 constituency election commissions during the reporting period and received their full co-operation."
Meanwhile, those in the Presidential race dismiss any criticisms. Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan candidate Araz Alizade said he "cannot complain of any restrictions to his campaign and to his freedom of speech."
Likewise Gudrat Hasanguliyev, the candidate for the Whole Azerbaijan Popular Front, admitted it was Azerbaijan's booming economy under Aliyev, not election irregularities, that are harming his election chances.
"As the standards of life are increasing and economy does well, the population is not very interested in new ideas," he said when asked about his prospects.
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