|06BAKU1466||2006-10-06 13:46:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Baku|
1. (C) SUMMARY: As of 1900 hours on October 6, Azerbaijan's
partial Municipal Elections have passed relatively smoothly,
with reports of minor procedural problems that the local
election officials quickly corrected. Our Embassy observers
noticed many cases of family voting, and some cases of
attempted voter persuasion or intimidation. One polling
station has proven to be particularly problematic, although
some of the irregularities were addressed in an inspection by
the local Constituency Election Commission (ConEC), and the
Central Election Commission (CEC) continues to actively
monitor procedures there. Now that polls are closed, the true
test will be the vote counting and tabulation process, which
Embassy observers will monitor. Post will report in greater
detail septel. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) As of 1900 hours local time, Azerbaijan's partial
Municipal Elections have passed in a low-key and orderly
fashion. Elections (mostly re-runs of 2004 races that were
canceled due to fraud and irregularities) were held in cities
and villages throughout the country, although no municipal
seats in the capital were up for grabs. Contrary to previous
practice, the GOAJ remained open for business on election
day. The CEC had previously predicted a voter turn-out of 20
to 45 percent (see ref a), and according to Embassy
observers, actual turn-out appeared to be closer to 20
3. (SBU) Our 14 Embassy observers throughout the country
reported that voting occurred without any major problems.
Most problems we noticed were minor and procedural, the most
common of which was the provision of pre-stamped envelopes.
(Note: According to the Azerbaijani Election Code, ballots
may be pre-stamped, but envelopes may not). Most PECs stopped
pre-stamping envelopes once observers called this error to
their attention. In addition, some observers noted that the
ballot boxes were not sufficiently sealed, and there were
many cases of possible ballot-stuffing (envelopes in the
transparent ballot boxes that looked as if they may have been
inserted in clumps rather than one at a time), although
observers did not notice anyone in the process of stuffing.
Other procedural problems were witnessed during the opening
of polling stations. A few observers reported that the PECs
did not count ballots in the presence of observers, and one
polling station in Nakhchivan was opened 30 minutes late.
4. (SBU) Embassy observers also witnessed family voting (more
than one person in the voting booth at a time) at polling
stations throughout the country. In some locations, observers
noted groupings of two to five signatures on the voter lists
that were clearly written by the same hand - indication that
family voting and proxy voting (a voter voting on behalf of
another person) had taken place while Embassy observers were
not present. Most instances of observed family voting
involved a husband assisting a wife, or a younger family
member helping an elderly relative to vote. Some of these
voters purported to be illiterate, while others did not
indicate why they needed assistance.
5. (C) At one polling station in ConEC 52 (Guba), the Chair
of the Village Council was clearly attempting to persuade
voters to vote for a certain candidate. He then proceeded to
follow Embassy observers to several other polling stations.
We subsequently notified the CEC of the problem, and the CEC
is now investigating the matter. In a polling station in
Nakhchivan, a group of approximately 10 police officers was
loitering inside the polling station. In several locations in
ConEC 45 (Absheron), there were many unidentified persons
inside the polling stations, in some cases, blocking the
entrances so that voters had to push through the group in
order to vote.
6. (C) So far, only one observed polling station has proven
to be particularly problematic - polling station nine in
Absheron. The PEC chair would not allow Embassy observers to
view the signed voters list until a CEC official intervened.
Once observers were able to view the list, they noted that
all signatures (over 100 at that point) appeared to have been
written by about three different hands. Observers also
noticed open voting and family voting at that location. The
same observers returned to polling station nine after members
of the local ConEC had come through to inspect, and noted
that these practices had improved, although other problems
had developed - such as the presence of a "municipal"
cameraman inside the polling station. After we notified the
CEC of the problems at this polling station, the CEC has been
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actively engaged in addressing these problems.
7. (C) COMMENT: Now that polls are closed, the true test will
be the vote-counting and tabulation process. Embassy
observers will stay throughout the process. We will compare
notes with other international observers and with the two
OSCE/ODIHR technical experts who were brought in to gauge the
overall election climate, and will report further information