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A Little Freer And Fairer?

Azerbaijan has received a bit of positive feedback ahead of its October 15 presidential election. A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) concluded a pre-election visit on September 18 by stating -- without going into detail -- that Baku has made "improvements that should create conditions for a good election."

The statement noted, however, that not all of the recommendations made by the Council of Europe have been fully addressed. In particular, delegation leader Andreas Herkel noted a standard issue of concern for Azerbaijan, saying that the continued incarceration of some journalists "in a period prior to presidential elections is not a positive factor.”

PACE also raised concerns about the decisions of five opposition parties not to participate in the vote. "Even if a political party and its leaders fail to see clear prospects of getting voted into power, or they feel that their democratic rights are being limited or even violated, they should nonetheless participate in the electoral race in the interests of their supporters," the PACE delegation wrote.

In comments to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Herkel added, "It is our message to the people who are not running that we can protect their democratic rights."

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