Azerbaijani Parliament adopts controversial draft law „On Political Parties“ in the third reading
Azerbaijani Parliament adopted the draft law “On Political Parties” in the third reading on December 16. According to critics, it will further restrict what is left of local opposition. As Turan.az writes, the draft law provides for increasing the number of party members from 1,000 to 5,000, and such a proposal was assessed negatively by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe back in 2011.
“Therefore, the reintroduction of the requirement of 5,000 members in the bill and the addition of a provision to deregister parties with less than 4,500 members is a restriction on the right of citizens to participate in the political life of countries, which runs counter to international standards, democratic principles, political pluralism,” the statement Party of People’s Front of Azerbaijan (PPFA) said.
Also, the PPFA criticised the norm of the party register for including data on all members of the organisations. “In considering the practice of constant pressures and police surveillance of opposition members, the authorities are thus given ample opportunity to harass activists through law enforcement agencies with their personal details,” the PPFA statement further said.
Articles 3.3 and 4.7 of the bill prohibit unregistered parties from engaging in political activities. This provision makes it possible to prevent the establishment and formation of new political parties that might compete with the incumbent Government, contrary to the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Azerbaijani Constitution.
Article 12.3.3 makes the participation of political parties in elections compulsory, which deprives them of the right to boycott, and violates the right to freedom of choice. “For these reasons, the submitted draft law has a reactionary content and aims to restrict the activities of political parties, especially the real opposition, and results in the de facto elimination of political pluralism.
The PPFA calls on the authorities not to adopt this Law on Political Parties and to send the draft law to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for the expertise and consider its recommendations,” further noted. The PPFA calls on the international community not to remain indifferent to removing the real opposition from the legal field of Azerbaijan.
In late November 2022, the Azerbaijani parliament published an updated version of a draft law on political parties. The first version of the law was met with indignation by society, and in the new version, the requirements for political parties have been relaxed. The leaders of Azerbaijani opposition parties say that despite the changes, the bill is still reactionary.
Thus, according to the document, “at least fifty citizens” can act as party founders. The first version had “at least 200 citizens”. Another requirement that those intending to found parties must have been resident in Azerbaijan for twenty years has also been done away with.