There Are Elections Coming Up
You folks in America know that there are elections coming up (and for you Wisconsin folks, your election information is here!) But it’s not just in America that elections are gripping the populace. Too, in Azerbaijan, we have an election coming up. We’ve been seeing various nice-looking posters of the to-be parliamentarians around town, and there are signs on polling places that command you to “give your voice!” You can find more like the one on the left, which tells you that “Your Vote is Crucial,” at this website.
In Azerbaijan, there are 125 constituencies, and the votes for those candidates are going to come reigning down on November 7th. As someone who doesn’t get to really participate at all (Peace Corps isn’t really interested in getting kicked out because a few Volunteers went and rallied for transparency and fair elections), I’m put in a position to hear views from different subsets of people. First, there are the non-Azeris here that I talk to, who are all in a general consensus that the elections are already decided. Many of them are going to be election observers. Then, there are the Azeris I talk to, who are also of the consensus that the elections are already decided. This is a rather unfortunate state of affairs. I’m not sure what the official numbers have been for voter participation in recent years, but talking with other people around here, the guesses are that Azerbaijan is, in reality, hitting about 30-40% participation. That’s rough. Probably not a great sign for democracy.
The third group of people I talk to are those who are excited to use their translating skills. While the election may not mean that much to them, they are getting ready for the wave of international observers from OSCE, CIS, and various international delegations. One of my colleagues at the bank has been a translator for them before, but is sad that she can’t this year because her wedding is two days after the election. One of our other friends here in Lənkəran, Samir, is already looking forward to helping out. I’m not sure about the headline here, but it looks as though there is a decent chunk of observers here for the elections. That estimate of 22,000 seems ridiculous, and I can’t see where they came up with that, but the 581 number looks good.
As an aside, we’ve already talked about the visa situation over the last two weeks, and my discussions with people at the bank have revealed that they, too, are of the mind that the visa restrictions are only temporary, probably to expire after the elections are over. This wouldn’t really surprise me too much, as it probably serves the ruling interests to have fewer international observers or journalists here to report on the ‘voting irregularities’ that occur on November 7th. I’ll check back on that, too.
Lastly, you can check out the Central Election Commission’s webpage here (notice it comes in five languages, is somewhat nice-looking, and is rather lacking in helpful things like statistics). And you can relax knowing that the Election Commissioner has urged candidates not to violate the election code. That’s encouraging.