ABA ROLI Raises Public Awareness Through Election Reform Program

December 2008

During the 2008 presidential election in Azerbaijan, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) implemented a two-tier election reform program. ABA ROLI trained a number of lawyers and judges on the complaints and appeals procedures defined by the newly amended Elections Code. It also established a voter complaint hotline for citizens to speak with lawyers and gain advice on election-related issues.

In September and October, ABA ROLI conducted a series of one-day training sessions for more than 150 lawyers on the Elections Code and on procedures for handling election-related complaints and appeals. ABA ROLI Staff Attorney Parviz Abbasov and Chingis Dadshov, a local expert on election law, trained the lawyers in the capital, Baku, and in the cities of Ganja, Sheki, Lankaran, Shirvan, Quba and Nakhchivan. The training covered various topics including, the right to equal and direct elections, registration, voting secrecy, transparency, participation of political parties and blocks of political parties, the status of registered candidates, financing elections, conduct of pre-election campaigns and filing violation complaints. Relevant precedents of the European Court of Human Rights were included.

A half-day seminar for the judges and staff of Baku Appellate Court was also held. The judicial seminar was led by David Rubino, ABA ROLI’s country director in Azerbaijan, and Anne Peskoe, a visiting legal specialist. Copies of election law guidebooks prepared by ABA ROLI and its expert consultants were handed out to participants for their reference.

The telephone hotline ABA ROLI established in cooperation with the Legal Education Society (LES), a local non-governmental organization in Baku, allowed voters to ask questions about the elections law and to learn how to file formal complaints in case of violation. Trained lawyers were available for two five-hour shifts per day on the toll-free telephone service from October 1–26 to assist voters. More lawyers were available on October 15, the presidential election day, and the week that followed. A public service announcement was aired on national television and throughout the regions to inform people of the hotline service. The efforts helped to raise the legal community’s and the public’s awareness of their legal rights, and the elections law and process.