A fly in the ointment from German parliamentarians to Baku
In Azerbaijan the parliamentary elections were completed – the fifth since the restoration of the country's independence. As expected by most analysts, there was no plot twist – the ruling party ‘New Azerbaijan’ won the majority of the seats in the new convocation of the parliament, the ‘classic’ opposition represented by the party ‘Musavat’ and ‘Popular Front’ refused to participate in the election race. The only thing that remains in the memory is the refusal of the OSCE ODIHR to send observers to the elections that followed after the organization was unable to agree with Azerbaijan on the number of members of the monitoring mission. Thus, the current government without any problems overcome potential domestic political risks, accompanied by the traditional politicization of society on the eve of the parliamentary and presidential elections. Meanwhile, to exclude such risks was impossible, especially against the backdrop of the economic problems of the population due to the devaluation of the national currency this spring, as well as fundamental personnel changes in the field of national security.
Baku can celebrate a foreign policy success as well. The PACE observation mission represented by 28 people and following the recent elections noted a significant improvement in their transparency and, in general, assessed them as ‘a great step forward to free and democratic elections.’ The head of the delegation, the Spaniard Jordi Chuklya, said that the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan were held generally in accordance with international standards, ‘the results reflect the will of the Azerbaijani people.’ According to him, there have been no serious incidents or cases of pressure on voters. After a more than two-hour debate over the final statement of the mission, it was adopted by 16 votes ‘for’, 7 deputies voted ‘against’, another 5 abstained.
Though there was a fly in the ointment from two German parliamentarians. Germany was represented by three delegates of the observer mission: the head of the parliamentary group of friendship ‘Germany - South Caucasus’, Karin Shtrents (CDU), as well as deputies of the Socialist Party, Frank Schwabe and Ute Finkh-Kramer. It is noteworthy that both deputies from the Social Democratic Party opposed the final statement. They, along with the notorious Irish deputy in Azerbaijan, Michael McNamara, issued a separate press release in which they accused the Azerbaijani government of persecution of the opposition, journalists and local observers, the suppression of freedom of speech and called the elections ‘not free.’ The MP from the CDU, Karin Shtrents, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, refused to join this statement.
Undoubtedly, each observer should and must have their own positions on the recent election and critical opinions should also be heard and perceived tolerantly. Some alarming details, however, provide food for thought about the sincerity of the motives of the voiced criticism (the validity or invalidity of this criticism is an issue that requires separate consideration). Attention is drawn to whether Frank Schwabe and Ute Finkh-Kramer maintain contact with individual representatives of the Armenian diaspora in Germany radicalized against the Azerbaijani authorities, or (in the case of Schwabe) their activities effectively provide them. So, the deputy Finkh-Kramer was one of the main speakers at a conference dedicated to the centennial of the Armenian-German Society (See 100 Jahre Deutsch-Armenische Gesellschaft).
Finkh-Kramer sits between diplomats of the Embassy of Germany in Armenia, Ashot Smbatyan and the chairman of the Society, Raffi Kantyanom.
Despite the fact that Finkh-Kramer is a member of the parliamentary subcommittee on civilian crisis prevention and resolution of conflicts, the general public do not know any of her statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or yproblem of the Azerbaijani refugees.
Her party colleague, Frank Schwabe, is one of the most active lobbyists in making a decision of the resolution on the ‘Armenian genocide’ to be accepted in the Bundestag and repeatedly called ‘to call a genocide genocide’, for which he received a public commendation from the Armenian diaspora. A more detailed analysis of Frank Schwabe’s activity reveals that his support for the position of the Armenian radicals is systematic and applies not only to historical Armenian-Turkish conflicts, but also to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. For example, during the preparation of the Council of Europe resolution on ‘Functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan’, Frank Schwabe was one of five deputies arguing for a change to the wording on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Schwabe made for the fact that the phrase ‘Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other provinces of Azerbaijan’ be replaced by the phrase ‘the consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict dominanting over the political agenda of Azerbaijan (See 'The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan')
Thus, the German member of parliament has not only refused to describe Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas as occupied territories, but also prevented the inclusion of the wording in the final text of the resolution. And how sincere his ‘sharp concern’ is over the human rights situation in Azerbaijan in the context of the elections is an open question.