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Azerbaijani Parliament Amends Election Law

Candidates for the Azerbaijani parliament will have less time to campaign.
Candidates for the Azerbaijani parliament will have less time to campaign.
BAKU -- Azerbaijan's parliament today passed controversial amendments to the country's election law, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The bill, which was introduced by the ruling party, had been harshly criticized by the opposition and international organizations.

The amendments include the shortening of the election campaign period from 75 days to 60 days. The law would also bar campaigning by candidates before the registration deadline.

The shortened election cycle would mean candidates have 23 days to campaign, five days less than the currently cycle.

Ali Ahmedov, the executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, said the amendments will increase the effectiveness of the election process.

He said voters don't need to deliberate for long before deciding whom to vote for. Opposition and independent election watchdogs say the new campaign period is too short since there are virtually no alternative voices in the media.

International organizations have criticized the Azerbaijani government for the lack of pluralism in the media and for restricting freedom of assembly for opposition groups.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani human rights ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova said on June 17 that she is ready to explain to the government the opposition's objections to the election law amendments.

Suleymanova also said her office will monitor freedom of assembly during the run-up to parliamentary elections in November. "In an election year, freer conditions should be created for people," she said.

Suleymanova was speaking on the sidelines of an international conference in Baku held under the auspices of the UN's cultural agency, UNESCO.