ALDE Party President Sir Graham Watson has warned the people of Azerbaijan that their fundamental rights and freedoms are at stake as they vote in the country’s Presidential election, a poll that is unlikely to change the authoritarian system of government that has the country in its grip.
Observers say no election in the 20-year era of incumbent President Ilham Aliyev and his father has fulfilled recognised democratic standards. President Aliyev altered the constitution in the oil-rich former Soviet state in 2009, allowing him to stand for a third term.
For activists, the last 18 months particularly have seen a clampdown on civil society, with political figures, journalists and campaigners arrested on bogus charges, legitimate demonstrations broken up and restrictive legislation adopted.
After talks with Musavat leader Isa Gambar, Sir Graham said;”Who, if not liberals, as the guardians of civil liberties, will speak out whenever and wherever individual freedoms are threatened? Despite its wealth, Azerbaijan will not prosper in the long term if political freedoms are not given as much priority as economic freedoms.”
Having boycotted the 2008 election, ALDE Member Party Musavat is now one of the two main opposition parties putting up a joint candidate for the first time. "Liberals across Europe are proud to have Musavat among their number and we will continue supporting their efforts to build a free country and strengthen liberal links between Azerbaijan and the EU. We also demand the immediate release of Musavat's Deputy Chairman, Tofiq Yaqublu, as well as that of Yagidar Sagidov and others who have been jailed."