Friday Wrap-up: presidential candidates, house arrest rejected and election observers

Illustration: Meydan TV

This week saw the final candidates of the election in February, house arrest for ‘AbzasMedia’ journalists rejected and observers registered for Azerbaijan’s presidential election.

Registration of presidential candidates has ended: 7 people will participate

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has officially registered the candidacies of Gudrat Hasanguliyev, Fazil Mustafa, Elshad Musayev, and Fuad Aliyev. The decision was announced after the CEC’s meeting on January 9, marking the completion of the first stage of the election process, which involved the collection of signatures and candidate registration. Notably, incumbent President Ilham Aliyev and deputies Zahid Oruj, Razi Nurullayev, and others are among the registered candidates.

Set to take place on February 7, 2024, President Ilham Aliyev ordered these elections through a signed decree on December 7, 2023. While several candidates attempted to join the race, only those aligned with the ruling government, including President Aliyev, managed to secure registration. Notably, parties such as PFCP, Musavat, and Classic People’s Front have declared their intention to boycott the elections. The upcoming polls follow the extraordinary presidential elections held on April 11, 2018, and come as President Aliyev marks two decades in office.

Court rejects house arrest for ‘AbzasMedia’ journalists

On January 10, the Khatai District Court deliberated on petitions seeking house arrest for three journalists involved in the ‘AbzasMedia’ case – Sevinj Abbasova (Vagifqizi), Ulvi Hasanli, and Hafiz Babali. Despite their lawyers arguing that the charges were baseless and their detention unnecessary, Judge Sulhane Hajiyeva denied the request for house arrest. The journalists, facing accusations of smuggling, allege their arrests are retaliation for corruption investigations, emphasizing their commitment to the rule of law.

Their lawyers plan to appeal the court’s decision and file complaints with the Penitentiary Service, citing hindrances to confidential discussions during court proceedings. The journalists and their defenders express concerns over violations of their rights, including restricted communication.

The ‘AbzasMedia’ case involves the arrest of journalists associated with the publication, known for its corruption investigations. The journalists, denying any wrongdoing, claim their work targeted officials, including members of the president’s family. The case adds to existing concerns surrounding press freedom and the rule of law in the country.

Over 17,500 observers registered for Azerbaijan’s presidential election on February 7

As preparations for Azerbaijan’s presidential election on February 7 start, Chairman of the Central Election Commission, Mazahir Panahov, disclosed that a notable 17,500 observers have registered for the upcoming polls. Providing insight to local journalists on January 11, Panahov highlighted that with an estimated 6,300 polling stations, there will be an average of three observers per station. Praising the significant number of observers, he expressed the hope that they would actively monitor the election process.

International observers, including the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, are encouraged to visit these stations and engage in the monitoring process. Panahov emphasized the “constructive cooperation being established with international observers”, including long-term observers already deployed in various regions.

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