Aliyev criticized for his interference into snap election campaign

Aliyev accepted Talibov to reward him on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev awarded parliamentarian candidate Vasif Talibov with the order of Honor, a move that has been seen as a major interference into the upcoming general election.

On 4 February, Aliyev accepted Talibov, head of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, to reward him on the occasion of his 60th birthday, state news agency Azertag reported.

Talibov is also registered as a parliamentarian candidate running for the snap election from the Sharur-Sadarak Constituency No. 1.

According to observers, the president's move may be seen as election interference, as campaigning is still underway.

In a talk with Meydan TV, Akif Gurbanov, the director of the Institute for Democratic Initiatives (IDI), said that rewarding Talibov with an order during the election campaign is not ethically correct if he was awarded as a candidate rather than a speaker of the autonomous republic's supreme assembly.

“Talibov still continues his duties (as the leader of Nakhchivan). Simultaneously, he is the former deputy and also the candidate from Sharur-Sadarak. If his candidacy is highlighted during the nomination, it might be seriously considered as interference into the election. That is, the president influences public opinion in his favor,” Gurbanov said, adding Talibov could have received the award after the election is over.

“It is not desirable for the president to publicly accept Talibov and reward him. Unfortunately, there is no political or electoral ethics in Azerbaijan, and no one seriously consider this legislation,” Gurbanov said.

Echoing his colleague's views, Anar Mammadli, head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, said rewarding Talibov during the election campaign was unethical.

“It is not yet clear whether Talibov's acceptance by the head of state will work in his favor or not. There is favoritism here, one candidate is being promoted in comparison with the other candidates,” Mammadli said in an interview with Meydan TV.

Mammadli urges Aliyev's pictures to be removed from the constituencies and polling stations as the president is the chairman of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP). “It is the violation of the election campaign,” Mammadli said.

Lawyer Fuad Agayev says if there was a real election, Talibov´s reward would have had the opposite effect.

“In all cases, it is not ethically correct to award a the ruling party's key candidate during an election campaign,” Agayev said adding, “but there are no restrictions accordingly in the legislation.”

Snap parliamentarian elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 9 February.

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