With no votes cast, Azerbaijani election app releases ‘final’ election results
5:40pm | 8 October 2013 | by Deborah Brown, Jochai Ben-Avie, Peter Bourgelais
While the October 9 Azerbaijani general election was not expected to meet international standards as “free and fair,” an app developed by the country’s authoritarian government has accidentally released a final vote tally a full day ahead of the election.
According to the application, the votes count for tomorrow’s election have the the country’s incumbent dictator, Ilham Aliyev, “winning” the election by a landslide.
The app was released by the Mərkəzi Seçki Komissiyası or Central Election Commission, and bears the Commission’s name. (The Android app is available for download here, and the iPhone app is available for download here, however Access makes no claims as to the app’s security.)
The app appears to have been the first time that the Azerbaijani government has attempted to use a mobile app to distribute election related information to the general public. At the time of writing it is unclear why the results were released ahead of schedule: they could have been the result of any number of possible technical or human errors, from the mistaken publication of a test run of the application to a bug in the application’s code.
Azerbaijan’s alternative media channel Meydan TV was the first source to report on the faulty app: the channel led with a headline declaring the released data to be evidence of electoral fraud and vote rigging. In an email exchange with Emin Milli, Meydan TV’s director and a prominent Azberbaijani activist, he declared, “I’m speechless. Even the facade of a real election in Azerbaijan has been proven a farce.”
In addition to publishing the results -- which have Aliyev garnering 72.76% of the vote, and Jamil Hasanli (the sole opposition candidate) taking 7.4% -- the app allegedly published information about how many people voted, the names of the precincts, and how many voters voted at various times during the day. The type and amount of information provided by the app appears to be an effort by the Electoral Commission to give the election a semblance of transparency and credibility.
“Azerbaijan played host to the U.N. Internet Governance Forum almost one year ago. If Meydan TV’s allegations of fraud prove true, this would be a troubling use of technology to obfuscate democratic processes, and a validation of the concerns raised by civil society during the IGF about the free flow of information in Azerbaijan,” said Access Executive Director Brett Solomon.
For more than a month leading up to tomorrow’s election, election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been deployed to the country. The monitors from the OSCE, of which Azerbaijan is a member, have criticized this year’s electoral campaigns for “a lack of thorough debate” and campaign platforms, and for the state-controlled media’s heavy coverage of President Aliyev in comparison with other candidates.
“Access calls on OSCE election monitors and the international community to promptly investigate these allegations, and ensure that technology is used as a tool for electoral transparency and not to further the interests of the repressive incumbent government,” said Solomon.