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Azerbaijan's Most Prominent Opposition Parties Lose Parliament Mandates

Opposition leaders Ali Kerimli (left) and Isa Qambar called for the annulment of the vote and new elections.

Opposition leaders Ali Kerimli (left) and Isa Qambar called for the annulment of the vote and new elections.

As widely anticipated, the November 7 Azerbaijani parliamentary elections replicated to varying degrees the most egregious failings of previous ballots. The OSCE Election Observation Mission, which, exceptionally, included Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, noted in its preliminary assessment "restrictions of fundamental freedoms, media bias, the dominance of public life by one party, and serious violations on election day." It concluded that "the conditions necessary for a meaningful democratic election were not established."

According to preliminary election returns made public on November 8 by the Central Election Commission, the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party garnered 74 of the 125 seats, up from 63 in the outgoing parliament. Nominally independent candidates who in fact are aligned with the government received 38 seats, and 10 small opposition or quasi-opposition parties the remaining 13 seats.

Civic Solidarity retained the three and Ana Vaten the two mandates they had in the previous legislature; the Democratic Reforms party, Great Creation, the Movement for National Rebirth, Umid, Civic Unity, Civic Welfare, Adalet (Justice), and the Popular Front of United Azerbaijan, most of which were represented in the previous parliament, won one seat apiece.

For the first time, not a single candidate from the main right-wing opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front (AHCP) or Musavat parties was elected to parliament. (They won two and four mandates respectively in the 2005 parliamentary elections.) The two parties, which this time around participated as a bloc, have denounced the vote as neither free, fair, nor democratic.

Musavat Party Chairman Isa Qambar told a press conference on November 8 that all the bloc's 35 candidates won election in their respective districts. He called for the annulment of the vote and new elections. AHCP leader Ali Kerimli deplored what he termed the "total falsification" that has brought Azerbaijan "closer to the standards that prevail in Uzbekistan."

Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Sardar Calaloglu, never a man to mince words, was quoted as saying the elections were "the worst, the most illegal and the least democratic" in Azerbaijan's recent history.

That conclusion is not corroborated by the OSCE Election Observation Mission's preliminary assessment. Observers registered "serious problems" during the voting at 10 percent of all polling stations visited, and assessed the vote count as "bad" or "very bad" at almost one-third of polling stations visited -- findings that may or may not accurately reflect what happened across the entire country. The corresponding figures in 2005 were 13 percent and 43 percent.

Two further statistics should be noted. Voter turnout on November 7 was marginally over 50 percent, compared with 46.8 percent in 2005 and 68 percent in 2000. Moreover, those voters who did go to the polls were overwhelmingly middle-aged or elderly, according to the Russian daily "Kommersant." Most of the younger generation apparently did not participate, whether from indifference or as a sign of silent protest is not clear.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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