Tuesday

24th Jan 2017

EU ponders reaction to Azerbaijan's 'appgate'

  • Aliyev (l) and Barroso in Brussels earlier this year (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

French senators have congratulated Azerbaijan's President on a sweeping election victory, but they could have done it one day before the vote.

The French politicians, Nathalie Goulet, Mohamed Soilihi and Jean-Claude Peroni - three of dozens of international monitors in the country - were quoted by Azerbaijan state press on Thursday (10 October) as saying Wednesday's poll was free and fair.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"I did not see any difference in the election processes of our countries," France's Soilihi noted.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) said that with 92 percent of the vote counted, the incumbent, Ilham Aliyev, won by 85 percent, while the top opposition candidate, Jamil Hasanli, got 5 percent.

"Our model of national and religious tolerance is an example for all other nations … We will continue democratic reforms and the process of building a modern state," Aliyev told national TV.

For its part, the EU foreign service is waiting for the verdict of the Vienna-based watchdog, the OSCE, due at noon Brussels time on Thursday, before speaking out.

But a comical mistake earlier on Tuesday by the CEC indicates the regime pre-cooked the result.

The CEC contracted a firm called Happy Baku to create a phone app to publish the outcome.

But when the app became available for download one day ahead of the vote, it already contained a set of results: Aliyev 73 percent and Hasanli 7 percent.

Activists based in Germany, which operate the opposition cable channel Meydan TV, published screen-grabs of the data.

The news quickly acquired the tag "appgate" and reached EU officials in Brussels. It also made headlines on the British state broadcaster, the BBC, on Swedish TV and in the US daily, the Washington Post.

The app equally quickly went offline. The Happy Baku chief also deleted his Facebook page, Twitter account and LinkedIn page.

The CEC on Wednesday blamed Happy Baku for the "crash."

It added that the "test" had used data from "previous elections" and it said sorry for creating "justified confusion."

Meydan TV founder, Emin Milli, is calling the CEC's bluff, however.

He told EUobserver on Thursday from Germany the glitch amounts to "revelation of an intent to perpetrate major fraud."

He said: "Their claim they were using data from previous elections doesn't stand up, because Aliyev did not get 73 percent and Hasanli was not a candidate the last time around."

He added he expects the official tally to "revise" the figures so they do not match the app.

But in the meantime, the error has put EU diplomats in a pickle.

On the one hand, they recently criticised Aliyev for a pre-election crackdown on civil liberties. But on the other hand, they are wary of upsetting him because he is about to decide what percentage of a €40 billion gas pipeline to award to European firms.

On the crackdown, Milli added that the Baku-based journalist who alerted him to appgate does not want his name published in case he joins the other political prisoners in Aliyev's jails.

He said he also fears for the safety of the Happy Baku director.

He noted he does not expect much of a reaction from the OSCE, the EU or the US, however: "Based on past elections, they will somehow massage the situation because the oil and gas interests here are so big."

Azerbaijan's embassy to the EU was not immediately available to comment.

But its EU ambassador, Fuad Iskandarov, told EUobserver in an interview back in September he already had an inkling of who is best placed to win.

"It's obvious who has the more credibility and capacity [to lead the country]," he said, alluding to Aliyev.

"In the case of Azerbaijan, you [the EU] have very hard, but predictable partners," he also said.

Trump pledges US-first foreign policy

Economic protectionism and war on Islamist terrorism will form the heart of US foreign policy, Trump has said. He did not rubbish Nato, but indicated interest in a new Russia alliance.

News in Brief

  1. Greek island mayors plead for the transfer of migrants
  2. Tzipi Livni cancels Brussels trip amid war crimes probe
  3. Romania's president plans referendum on prisoner pardons
  4. Sweden to host EU social summit
  5. US Congress may Trump-proof Russia sanctions
  6. Fury over UK 'cover up' of failed missile test
  7. Theresa May: I will not be afraid to stand up to Trump
  8. Brexit will destroy NI peace deal, says Gerry Adams

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  2. World VisionEU Urged to do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  3. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  4. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  5. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  6. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  7. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  9. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  11. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London