Feminist activist elected to municipal body for first time in Azerbaijani elections
This is so far the only independent candidate known to have secured one spot of the 15,156 municipal positions up for elections
Feminist activist Vafa Nagi has won in municipal elections in the village of Khol Garagashli of the Neftchala region in the central part of Azerbaijan.
The final results will be announced on December 29. The elections were held on December 23, and most experts agree that they were the most unusual municipal elections in Azerbaijan.
The peculiarity of these elections consists, first of all, in the fact that for the first time “protest youth” – former political prisoners, young oppositionists and feminists — participated in them.
They actively campaigned, attracted independent observers from their circle and managed to interest the public, despite the fact that usually the elections in the municipal elections in Azerbaijan generally go held unnoticed.
Former political prisoner Mehman Huseynov, who did not win a spot in the municipal elections, considers this the result of falsification.
Winners and losers
Vafa Nagi is known for the fact that she is an entrepreneur in social business; she created a sewing business which employs a number of local women.
Several days before the elections Vafa on her Facebook page spoke about the threats and pressure that she received from the election commission.
Blogger Mehman Huseynov filmed videos criticizing the authorities and spent two years in prison on charges of defaming a police officer.
On the evening of December 23, after the end of the election and long before the announcement of the official results,
Mehman’s associates announced on social media that he won the election. However, the municipality said otherwise; Huseynov accuses the election commission of falsification.
Another independent candidate, feminist Rabiya Mammadova, claims that a ballot box was stolen from her, as a result of which she did not go to the municipality. Now the girl plans to participate in the early parliamentary elections, which will be held on February 9, 2020.
In general, during the election, observers of independent candidates and journalists recorded several cases of serious irregularities.
According to political columnist Shahin Rzayev, “the peculiarity of these elections is that they coincided in time with the illusion of ‘reforms’, allegedly launched by the Azerbaijani authorities from above.
“The dismissal of several elderly and clearly unpopular officials aroused among the population unjustified hopes for possible democratic reforms, including in the electoral system. However, the euphoria quickly waned.
The falsification mechanism worked as before, except that the methods have become a little more modern, sophisticated.
“But there is a positive point. The fact that the elections, basically, went along the rut can create problems for election commissions on far more important parliamentary elections on February 9, 2020. They will be watched already much more closely and the political activity of voters will be much higher.
Independents, observers in Azerbaijani municipal elections point at irregularities
This was the first time in Azerbaijan that municipal elections received wide spread coverage and public interest.
For the first time since the country gained independence, the public has shown some interest in these elections, and among the candidates there are former political prisoners a number of opposition figures.
In general, more than 40,000 candidates have taken part in the elections, of which 15,156 were supposed to be elected in 1606 municipalities throughout the country.
Independent candidate observers reported numerous violations at several polling stations – “carousels” and obstructing the work of observers and journalists.
Just why are these elections so unusual for Azerbaijan?
For the first time, municipal elections in Azerbaijan were held in 1999, and since then have been held every five years.
Earlier, they went completely unnoticed. Many residents of the country did not go to these elections, and even the opposition and journalists perceived them as a mere formality.
But this year on December 23, the elections are being held against the backdrop of a general revival of the country’s political life and several unexpected events.
The main recent surprise was the dissolution of parliament and the announcement of early parliamentary elections, which will be held on February 9, 2020.
In addition, over the past three months, President Ilham Aliyev “shuffled” the government and dismissed several large and unpopular officials in society.
And a week before the municipal elections, the state security department detained two heads of the executive branch on charges of corruption and theft.
In the fall, several unauthorized protests took place in Azerbaijan, for the first time in several years.
Campaigning and first violations
Opposition and activist candidates have actively campaigned on Facebook, urging young people to go to the polls and even sign up as independent observers.
On December 21, Nagi, the founder of a social business for employing women in one of the provinces, spoke about pressure and threats from local authorities on her Facebook page.
The reason for this was that Nagi asked how legitimate it was that the election commission included the nephew of the current head of the municipality.
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