According to the Information Center of the Central Election Commission (CEC), by 3:00 pm today 60.74% of all registered voters in Azerbaijan had cast a ballot, or about 3.2 million people. The head of the CEC, Mazahir Panahov, told journalists that the Commission had not received a single complaint or report of violations.
The polling stations will close at 7:00 pm local time.
Ballot box stuffing caught on film.
Journalists report facing obstacles in covering the voting.
An anonymous independent journalist (Nizami, 25th district, polling station #2) was physically assaulted while filming and shoved out of the polling station.
Another anonymous independent journalist (Nizami, 16th district, polling station #14): “One observer and one voter protested, saying they didn’t want me to film at that station. I said that they hadn’t given me that right and they couldn’t take it away from me. According to the Election Code I can film in whichever station I choose. Then they told a few people about me and had them write complaints, as if I was causing a disturbance at the polling station. I said that their complaints only showed half the story, they should add how they had obstructed me from filming. Only then did the station chairman allow me to film.”
Reuters journalist Naila Balayeva (Sabail-Nasimi, 23rd district, polling station #19) says that station chairman Orkhan Musayev told her filming at the station had been banned: “I told [Musayev] that CEC chairman Mazahir Panahov hadn’t issued any such ban. [Musayev] said that a certain Abdulla muallim had said it wasn’t allowed. Try as I might, I couldn’t ascertain who Abdulla muallim was. At nearby polling stations I didn’t have any problems like that. I’m sure that nobody gave [Musayev] such instructions, it was his own personal initiative.”
According to the Information Center of the Central Election Commission (CEC), by 12:00 pm 39.39% of all registered voters in Azerbaijan had cast a ballot. The Institute for Democratic Initiatives claims that turnout is being artificially inflated by the CEC.
Ilkin Karimov, a registered independent election observer in the Kurdamir region, says that he has observed only state employees coming to vote at polling stations. (State employees are often forced by their employers to participate in the political process.)
“I was in polling stations #2, 9, and 10 in the 57th district. I assure you that no one is coming to vote. Only state employees are coming: janitors, groundskeepers, teachers, etc. They come, vote, and leave as a group. So far I haven’t seen any one who came to vote alone.”
Karimov also says that many polling stations try to prevent observers from entering. In Kurdamir’s Khirdapay village, he was stopped and questioned as he tried to enter the polling station by an observer named Shafag from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party. “I was let into the station after I made a lot of noise,” Karimov said.
As of 10:00 this morning, 994,196 people had voted, or 18.71% of registered voters, according to Farid Orujov of the Central Election Commission’s information center.
Polling stations close at 7:00 pm local time.
“The chairman of the polling station let us in on the condition that we don’t get out of our seats.”
Election observers at polling station #37 in Kolayir village’s 94th district (Barda) say that the station’s chairman has threatened them with jail.
“Not only are we unable to carry out a normal observation, [the chairman] has even threatened us with jail. ‘Watch out,’ the chairman said, ‘I’ve had a lot of people arrested. I’ll send you where they went. It would be best if you left the station voluntarily. Or just carry out your observation in a civilized way. Sit in your seats.’ The chairman put us in our seats like we’re school children, soon they’ll probably tell us to keep our hands on our desks. How can we carry out an observation like this?”
An observer at polling station #3 in Shabran-Siyazan’s 54th district has reported ballot stuffing and “carousel” voting.
“In the most recent incident I caught a woman with a bunch of ballots in her hand. I told the chairman that she had 10 ballots in her hand, and the chairman said: ‘Let her put them in, she won’t do it again.’ Like she’s in kindergarten.”
According to the observer, the police have come to the polling station several times to deal with observers who are protesting fraud.
“They’re sending people from the cotton fields to vote. Two trucks full of them. They go from polling station to polling station and vote.”
Ali Zeynal, an observer at polling station #7 in Yasamal’s 17th district has also reported ballot stuffing.
“I saw myself how two people put in multiple ballots. One of them was an election observer. There’s no camera at the station so everyone’s open about it. I’m the only real observer here.”
Modern Musavat Party presidential candidate Hafiz Hajiyev voted for rival candidate, current president Ilham Aliyev, at polling station #31 in Binagadi’s 8th district.
Ilham Aliyev, current president and presidential candidate from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, has voted at polling station #6 in Sabail’s 29th district. First Lady and FIrst Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva voted with her husband, along with other family members. They did not speak with the press.
Prime Minister Artur Rasizadeh also voted at polling station #29 in II Yasamal’s 16th district.
Voting will end today at 7:00 pm local time.
Ali Zeynal, an election observer at polling stations 5, 6, and 7 in Yasamal’s 17th district, writes that some of the ballot boxes at his stations are not transparent. When Zeynal called the chairman of the polling station and asked why some of the boxes are transparent, and others aren’t, the chairmain said: “Go ask the government, I don’t know.”
Registered election observers wrote to Meydan TV from polling station #57 in the Hajigabul-Kurdamir voting district. Although the station opened at 7:00 am this morning, the observers were told, “Go, you can come back after 8 o’clock.”
“They had a thousand and one excuses not to let us in. Finally, they said we would be allowed in when the rest of the observers arrived. An observer by the name of Orkhan was allowed in after 8 o’clock. Then the rest of us were given permission. How do we know what they were doing inside for the first hour?”
Kurdamir residents informed Meydan TV that state employees in the region were ordered to participate in the elections today and vote for Ilham Aliyev.