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Azerbaijan: Thousands Protest On Opening Day Of Election Campaign

Baku, 16 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- At least 5,000 opposition supporters demonstrated in Baku today on the opening day of Azerbaijan's presidential election campaign. Demonstrators carried signs saying, "No to dictatorship!" and calling for free elections. No violence or arrests were reported.

Opposition groups fear that the election, to be held on 15 October, will be a fraud.

In a protest last week, opposition demonstrators said that incumbent President Heidar Aliev's decision to have his 41-year-old son Ilham (pictured) run the government is an attempt to turn Azerbaijan into a monarchy.

Both men are among the 12 candidates running for the presidency. The elder Aliyev has been undergoing health problems for some time.