Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Azerbaijan Adventure, Part 5: Election Eve

Election day has almost arrived and the level of anticipation remains low. Officially, campaigning ended on Monday. However, the intensity of campaign activity was meager at best. Promotional materials could not be attached to any surfaces outside, except official bulletin boards at polling stations (see the photo to the right). Posters could be attached to windows from the inside facing the street, however. Most businesses had President Ilham Aliyev's image on display (see the photo in a previous post, and one at the bottom of this post). In a few stores on the outskirts of Baku, Erik saw other candidates' material in view. Posters are gone now, however.

At the Central Electoral Commission press conference that Erik attended on Tuesday, the CEC chair touted innovations in the administration process. Azerbaijan's CEC has a substantial amount of material available online in several languages, and also has an Information Center dedicated to election coverage. Its technological prowess is featured in some of its advertisements. As you see on the poster to the right, the CEC is not only online, but it endorses Microsoft IE over open-source competitors like Firefox.

The most interesting moment of the press conference came when the CEC chair demonstrated the webcams that have been placed in 500 polling stations around the country (just under 10% of all polling stations). Erik was quite skeptical that this plan would be realized. The CEC announced that webcams would be used late in the process, and many of the facilities that house polling stations are unlikely to have reliable high-speed Internet connections. But, all of the test cameras seemed to work, showing polling stations (see the photo above). Most polling stations were empty, but people were visible milling about in a few cases. In answer to a reporter's question, the CEC chair indicated that Azerbaijan was the "first country in Europe" to use the Internet in this way (an assertion which is probably true, except perhaps the part about being in Europe). He also indicated that the cameras were supposed to stay on during the vote count. After the press conference, Erik tried to access the site, but it was password protected. Presumably this will change by tomorrow.

1 comment:

GumpInUT/USA said...

Thank you for covering the elections.