Expert: The US Department of State sent a disappointing message

Wed 04 November 2015 12:44 GMT | 16:44 Local Time

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News.Az interviews Jason Katz, the head of the Tool Shed Group (consulting the governments of the foreign countries, NGOs and corporations in the areas of strategic communication and policy).

You were observing the elections in Azerbaijan. Could you please share your impression?

I spent the day of the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan visiting and observing various polling stations throughout the Baku area. I found the entire process to be most orderly, based on fairness to the voters and, very interestingly for an American, full of safe guards to ensure that the voters’ voices were heard. For instance, each voter was asked for a valid identification to ensure that his/her name matched the official voter lists. In addition and in order to ensure that no one voted twice, a spray was used on voter’s fingers that illuminated in ultraviolet light…all to ensure, as we say in America, “one vote, one person.”

Is boycott a good way to express a protest against any problem with elections? And did the opposition’s boycott harm much the elections?

I do not believe that boycotting any election is healthy for democracy. The entire principle associated with voting is that the people’s voices are heard. Boycotting is simply an act of depriving oneself of one’s right. It is also important to note that voting is a function of democracy—not democracy in its entirety. A true and sustainable democracy is one built the strong civil, societal and economic and political foundations. 
How would you comment on OSCE/ODIHR refusal to send its observation mission to Azerbaijan?

The OSCE cancelling its mission to observe elections in Azerbaijan was rather bizarre. By the OSCE’s own admission, it was the result of one man’s decision, a decision that seemed to have been made from an emotional and arbitrary standpoint. The OSCE should certainly look into his motivations for such an ill-advised decision, made on behalf of such a large organization.

The reality is that many delegations of observers DID come to Azerbaijan to see the elections. I personally watched many of their press conferences where they reported their findings, and like me, saw free and fair elections.
 It’s also interesting to know your opinion on the criticical statements of the US State Department and what is behind than tough position.

The US Department of State sent a disappointing message. It seemed as if they did not necessarily know what to say, as they sent no observers, so they criticized the elections. It is unfortunate that the US Dept. of State sent no observers, as they would have seen the same excellently administrated  elections that I am so many observers from all of the world saw.
As a result of elections 21 women has became MP, quite a big number. How do you see the role of woman in politics of a Muslim country like Azerbaijan? I mean a lot of people in the world consider Muslim countries as a women oppressing area.    

The fact that 21 women became MPs in this election is fantastic. It has deep and positive meaning for the people of Azerbaijan and an important message to the world. A pluralistic parliament simply adds to the strength and stability of Azerbaijan. In terms of other majority-Muslim nations in the world and their oppression of women, what can I say? Azerbaijan is not the rest of the world. Azerbaijan has a many centuries old tradition of tolerance and pluralism and not just in terms of women, but to Azerbaijan’s many ethnic and religious minorities. 






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