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U.S. Department of State
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Statement by Philip T.Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
July 24, 2000

Azerbaijan: Parliamentary Election Legislation

On July 21 Azerbaijan's parliament acted to change the law on the Central Election Commission (CEC) in an apparent effort to eliminate the obligation that the government cooperate with the opposition on all CEC and Territorial Election Commission (TEC) decisions. Now, in effect, the government can control election commissions at all levels. This action followed the parliament's adoption of a new election law on July 5, which the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) criticized as having "serious shortcomings." Since passage of the law, the political opposition has refused to participate in meetings of the newly reformed CEC, thereby preventing the CEC from obtaining a quorum.

The United States regrets these recent actions of Azerbaijan's parliament. While the July 5 electoral law was an improvement over the previous version, it is seriously flawed. It failed to remove a provision preventing parties registered in the last six months from running in the election. In addition, the final version of the law changed the way in which local precinct election commissions are selected, raising questions about whether a transparent and impartial vote count can be conducted in November's elections. Parliament's action last week to change the composition of the CEC and TECs is a further setback and reverses an important electoral compromise achieved in consultation with the OSCE. Lack of transparent and impartial vote counting has been a problem in all of Azerbaijan's previous elections; it was our hope that this problem could be corrected by implementation of electoral laws in conformity with international standards.

The parliament's recent actions have not contributed to creation of either the legal basis or a political environment for the conduct of free and fair parliamentary elections in November. We urge Azerbaijan's Government and parliament to work with the OSCE's ODIHR, the opposition and NGOs to resolve their differences and amend the legislation as necessary to ensure it conforms to international standards.

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