John Friedman: Presidential elections in Azerbaijan

An international monitoring mission, comprised of legislators from different countries and regions of Europe, from Germany to Greece, was able not only to observe and certify the democratic nature of Azerbaijan’s presidential elections

An Azeri man casts his ballot paper at a polling station during a presidential elections in Baku, Azerbaijan, Wednesday, April 11, 2018.  (AP Photo)

Welcoming land of quince and feijoa.  Caspian Sea rich in oil and sturgeon. The ever hospitable capital of Baku ready to embrace every new visitor, whether from afar or from nearby lands. To Europeans, even well-travelled ones, Azerbaijan presents a geographic and cultural riddle. Turkic in origin, but independent and with a separate history from the neighboring Turkey. Reverential of the Islamic tradition, but fully committed to religious freedom and toleration.

An international monitoring mission, comprised of legislators from different countries and regions of Europe, from Germany to Greece, was able not only to observe and certify the democratic nature of Azerbaijan’s presidential elections, but also to bring back memories of a modern, beautiful and rapidly developing country, open to tourists, explorers and investors from all over the world.

European observers, including Bulgarian parliament members Alexander Simov and Pencho Milkov, European Parliament member Udo Voigt from Germany, Polish senators Jerzy Wcisla and Jan Rulewski, member of the „New Democracy“ faction in the Greek parliament Ioannis Kefalogiannis, Slovak parliament member Marek Kraijci and others made unannounced visits to numerous polling stations around the capital city of Baku and its environs, as the presidential elections were in full swing on April 11, 2018.  Having encountered no major problems with the voting process, the observers noted how well-prepared and organized polling workers were during the day and bestowed special praise to Azeri women for their active role in the nation’s political life.  European monitors were sincerely awed by the pace of Azerbaijan’s economic development and its commitment to the promotion of human rights in a multi-ethnic society.

Sharing his impressions after the monitoring mission was over, Bulgarian member of parliament Alexander Simov reminisced on a story he heard from Bulgarian businessmen, who visited Baku in mid-1990’s and met with then president of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev. As they recounted, Azerbaijan’s first president said at the time „You do not have to take my word for it.  Simply come back here in 10 years and see for yourself what I mean.“  Simov came 23 years later, and found that Azerbaijan has been developing at „cosmic speed“. „Baku has become a worldly metropolis, not having lost in the traditional warmth of its people at the same time“.

Heydar Aliyev’s son, Ilham Aliyev, has been reelected by the overwhelming majority of Azeri voters to ensure that the trend continues and the country remains stable, democratic, and economically successful.

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