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A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was in Baku on 22 and 23 January 2020 to assess the pre-electoral climate of the early parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, scheduled for 9 February.

Following discussions with various interlocutors, the PACE delegation considered it necessary to stress that there was a lot of room for improvement and that the period of time left until election day should allow at least some improvements to be realised.

As for the candidates’ registration and their participation in the election, the delegation strongly regrets that some political leaders were prevented from standing in the elections due to non-expunged criminal records, despite rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

Interlocutors stated that, although guaranteed by the Constitution, fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and movement are severely limited by the legal framework and its implementation, pointing to systematic harassment and criminal prosecution of those who express critical views of the government.

The delegation heard that freedom of assembly is not respected by the authorities, noting that the last authorised political rally was held in Baku in January 2019.

As for the funding of the election campaign, the PACE delegation recalls that a number of recommendations by GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, to improve campaign finance have not been fully addressed, including in respect of the time period for reporting, harmonisation of party financing laws, the independence of the oversight body, the lack of effective sanctions, and the need for more proactive monitoring of campaign finance.

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