What I said at the press conference
But first let me start with a Tweet I got that a Washington Post story reports that the results of the Azerbaijan elections were announced before the elections were held.
That is ignorance but excusable from a media that allowed itself to be embedded in wrongful war. But it is true that the votes were being openly counted by exit pollsters outside the polling stations as the election day unfolded.
The Canadian observer said that was wrong. I agree with her, not that it influenced anyone. The town was teeming with families who took the day as the holiday it was declared to be rather than as election day.
It would be worse, she said, if Azerbaijan were big enough to contain several time zones, like Canada and the US, for that would affect the voting where it hadn’t yet started.
So the Post was both ignorant and yet right. But the announcements were preliminary and not official, and one by pollsters.
In Canada there aren’t even surveys 48 hours before the polls open. But the elections themselves were "live streamed" poll station to poll station on the Internet so everyone who cared to could see if they were orderly or attended by coercion.
The ballot boxes or crates were empty at the start and started to fill up slowly throughout the day. They are made of transparent plastic. The election officers were stern looking, strict, and took their jobs carefully. In one polling station, a watcher looked like Sharapova but I did not go there.
I said the following:
“My observations on yesterday’s election must be taken in the context of what I actually witnessed in polling places within the city of Baku. Based thereon, I find the elections to have been conducted in an orderly and transparent manner. Of course I come from a country that is large, scattered in a far-reaching archipelago, heavily populated, with places difficult to reach, and where we have an electorate numbering close to 50 million out of a population of over 100 million.
“Here I observed an election involving an electorate of some 4 million, with a turnout, as of 5 pm yesterday, of 60%. No untoward incidents or any improper political presence were evident in the polling places. If anything, I found the elections, from the perspective of my own national experience, rather boring.
“That the result seemed from the start a foregone conclusion, and that there was no serious contest from any opposition, in no way detracts from my judgment that the elections were properly conducted.
“It is no part of democracy to create strong opposition at the polls or to guarantee participation in governance of a magnitude commensurate with the intensity of the dislike on the part of those who oppose the current regime.
“Democracy is about the people’s choices. The people appear to have voted for their continued and promised well-being under the current regime. This is also a country with a serious ongoing conflict with another country that has been able to establish a serious military presence inside Azerbaijan’s national territory. It would be uncommon for people to want to change governments in a situation fraught with such a threat to their very national existence. The only opposition candidate with a respectable showing in the surveys is a Russian-Azerbaijan dual citizen. Russia aided Armenia’s invasion of Azerbaijan and its military occupation of one-fifth of the country, deep inside it. Putin however refused to endorse him at the last minute. In short, the closest thing to a serious contender against the incumbent can be compared to Tokyo Rose.
“Not enough years have passed since the re-founding of an independent Azerbaijan by its widely admired founder, Haydar Aliyev, to fade the political clout of his indisputably positive legacy to his fledgling nation in the economic and political spheres. That has been the political history of far larger states, with more vibrant and longer established opposition forces led by strong personalities. India under the descendants of the Indian founding father Jawaharlal Nehru comes to mind. The Azerbaijani founder’s legacy has been further enhanced by the enormous success with which his elected successor has crowned his predecessor’s achievements in the economy. That would be his son.
“While a democracy does not require the actual existence of a viable opposition, it does require that if such opposition arises, as it has arisen in a small way here, it should not be suppressed.
“And while there is no political obligation to make opposition politically stronger than the voters have freely elected it to be—or not, the political and legal climate should not discourage let alone suppress opposition.
“Let them be heard and leave them to move and maneuver politically within reasonable laws to enhance their political influence.
“We have not been in the country long enough to give our own assessment of those aspects but it appears that, while political resources are disproportionately in favor of the regime, that is true in many democracies as well.
“Indeed, a feebly financed, more grossly disadvantaged opposition managed, not just to take a third of the seats of a captive parliament but two years later ultimately took absolute power in the succeeding election that was held under authoritarian conditions by the incumbent. I refer to my own country’s experience in the 1986 Snap Election for the Presidency between the mother of the current president and the longest serving president in the country’s history who ruled dictatorially.”
There you go. The Azerbaijani election.Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.