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08BAKU1049 2008-11-03 12:17:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baku
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1. (C) SUMMARY: On October 31 Embassy officials met with
Central Election Commission Chairman Mazahir Panahov to wrap
up issues related to Azerbaijan October 15 presidential
election. Overall, Panahov was proud of CEC's work during
the election period and grateful for the aid received from
the international community. He acknowledged some problems
that Embassy observers witnessed, and pledged to correct them
prior to the next election by "punishing" polling station
workers who committed violations. Panahov was upset about
the OSCE/ODIHR statement and especially the EU presidency
statement on the election, and claimed there continue to be
double standards for Azerbaijan versus Armenia. Panahov is
traveling to the United States to observe the American
election and to attend an IFES conference, which should be an
excellent opportunity for him to witness a competitive, free,
and fair election. END SUMMARY




2. (C) On October 31 Embassy officials met with Central
Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Mazahir Panahov and Head
of the CEC's International Relations Department Rovzat
Gasimov. Overall, Panahov expressed satisfaction with the
conduct of the election, and expressed appreciation for the
help given to the CEC by the international community. He
stated that perhaps if participation had been broader the
election numbers might have been different, but the otcome
would have been the same. He thanked the .S. Embassy for
its continued cooperation with te CEC.

3. (C) Without prompting, Panahov agreed that some polling
stations experienced problems uring the ballot counting
stage, including ones n Sumgayit that Embassy observers had
witnessed. When Embassy officials asked for more information
on what would be done to correct the problems in Sumgayit,
Panahov then claimed to have little information about the
incident, and said the Embassy should have reported the
problem. Panahov and Gasimov then had a short side
conversation in Azerbaijani language where Gasimov reminded
him of the details of the problem, and that the Embassy had
reported the incident. Panahov then announced in English
that these precinct election commission members "should be
punished." Later in the conversation, Panahov acknowledged
that Presidential Legal Advisor Shahin Aliyev, whom the
embassy had also contacted on election night, had called him
about the incidents. (NOTE: After the end of the meeting
Gasimov asked the Embassy to send again the details of all
polling stations where observers witnessed problems, so he
would have evidence of all misconduct. The Embassy will
provide this list.)




4. (C) Panahov also expressed disappointment with the
statements released by OSCE/ODIHR and particularly the EU
Presidency regarding the election. Panahov pointed to one
passage in the OSCE/ODIHR report regarding the fact that the
CEC never issued an instruction on tabulating polling station
results at the district level, claiming this information was
wrong, and in addition "any child knows how to input
information on a computer and email it." He felt the OSCE
continues to have double standards regarding elections in
Azerbaijan versus those in Armenia. On the EU presidency
statement, Panahov felt it was out of step with the statement
made by the EU Commission and by Javier Solana, and therefore
maybe "someone else had written it and the French did not
read it before signing." He did not believe, however, that
this "someone else" was American. (Note: several other
commentators, publicly and privately, have strangely
suggested in recent days that the USG must have written
European statements about Azerbaijan's election.)



5. (C) Panahov claimed that they had a process in place to
review the presidential election and make changes ahead of
the 2009 municipal elections. He did not offer any specifics
on how this review process would function, however. When
pressed on possible areas for improvement, Panahov stated
that more education for polling station workers was necessary
to correct problems like those in Sumgayit. Panahov wanted
to continue cooperation on this training with the
international community.



6. (C) Panahov was clearly proud of the work the CEC had
done over the past year, and was very sensitive to any
criticism of the election. His stated desires to continue
working with the international community and to punish the
election officials in Sumgayit who had committed violations
are good signs of his intentions to continue improving
Azerbaijan's capacity to conduct free and fair elections. It
is not clear, though, that Panahov has the political muscle
or will in Baku to address problems in a serious manner,
particularly if those problems include regional figures loyal
to the ruling party and President. Such decisions, it seems,
must be taken at a higher level, probably within the
Presidential Apparat. Panahov and Gasimov both traveled to
the U.S. after the meeting in order to participate in an
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
conference and to observe the U.S. election. This should be
an excellent opportunity for these election officials to
witness for themselves the dynamics of a competitive, free,
and fair election.