Europe calls on Azerbaijani authorities to change law "On political parties"
Azerbaijan urged to change new law
The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights published a joint opinion on the new Azerbaijani law “On political parties”, calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to change some points of the document. “The country will remain in the hands of this government and the opposition related to it for another 30 years,” Ilgar Mammadov, leader of the opposition Republican Alternative party, says.
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Appeal from leader of the opposition party
“I want everyone to know that if in the coming months Respublikaçı Alternativ will not submit to the government, in accordance with the requirements of the new law, a list of five thousand of its members, the state registration of the party will be liquidated in the second half of this year.
The country for will remain in the hands of this government and the “real opposition” that has become related to it. Another 30 years…
True, the government will have to explain to the whole world why, unable to cope with pressure, they passed a new law and hit the most constructive, ready to cooperate, progressive political party. But this conversation will no longer be useful.
Of course, we will not withdraw from public life. You just won’t be able to vote for us anymore. The country is saying goodbye to important prospects.
How to avoid this, you know. Register as a member of our party, attract your loved ones to the party,” Ilgar Mammadov, chairman of the Republican Alternative opposition party, wrote on Facebook.
A new law on political parties in Azerbaijan was adopted at the end of last year and signed by the President of Azerbaijan on January 11, 2023, and was strongly criticized by opposition parties.
The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in a joint opinion on the new law on political parties, noted that the new law “introduced a number of new problematic provisions that could have a deterrent effect on pluralism in the country.”
Among those are the following:
- an increase in the minimum number of party members from 1,000 to 5,000;
- the need to re-register already registered political parties;
- cumbersome procedure for the creation and registration of political parties;
- a ban on the activities of a political party without state registration;
- excessive regulation of intra-party structures;
- excessive control of the Ministry of Justice over party activities and lists of members of political parties;
- the possibility to suspend the activities of a political party or even dissolve the party for actions not related to serious violations of legal acts.
They say these rules raise serious concerns regarding the exercise of the right to freedom of association, which is guaranteed both by international human rights treaties and by the national constitution.
The Venice Commission and ODIHR recalled that the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression are fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society.
“Political parties, as collective instruments of political expression, must be able to fully enjoy such rights. This means that registration requirements must be reasonable.
Extensive state control over the internal functioning of a political party, including the requirement to provide the state with lists of its members, is an excessive measure, incompatible with the principles of necessity,” the conclusion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR says.
What is being suggested to the government?
The document also contains recommendations to the Azerbaijani authorities on changes to the law, Turan reports.
“Suspension and dissolution of political parties can be applied only in case of the most serious violations of regulatory legal acts and in extreme cases,” the European structures noted.
The VC and ODIHR invite the authorities to address these shortcomings. Measures are proposed to promote the creation and registration of political parties, including by returning to the original number of members required for state registration to 1,000 members.
It is proposed to remove the obligation to provide state bodies with lists of party members for verification. If this obligation is kept, it should be done by an independent body and not by the Ministry of Justice.
The Ministry of Justice may require from political parties not an entire list of members, but only the minimum number of members necessary for registration. It also needs to be clarified in the law that the member list is an internal party document and is not subject to disclosure.
They also propose to revise the formula for the distribution of public funding, giving more priority to the number of votes received by a political party in elections, instead of seats received in parliament.
They further recommend publication of names of only those sponsors whose donations exceeded certain limits.