But due to discrepancies between two sets of data posted on the website (http://www.cec.gov.az) of the Central Election Commission (MSK), determining the precise number of candidates any given political party is fielding is problematic. This is because some parties or blocs have endorsed candidates who are not members of that party, or who belong to a different party, while some candidates who are members of a given party have chosen to participate in the ballot as independents.
For example, the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) nominated candidates in only 101 of the 125 constituencies, but the total number of YAP members participating in the election is 433. Conversely, the conservative wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) is listed as having only one candidate, although AHCP Chairman Mirmahmoud Miralioglu told Trend News Agency that his party is backing 115 candidates, according to day.az on 20 September. Similarly, only 59 of the 67 Liberal Party of Azerbaijan candidates are actually members of that party.
Opposition Candidates Register
The opposition Azadlyq (Liberty) bloc, which unites the opposition Musavat party, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, and the progressive wing of the AHCP, leads with the largest number of candidates (115), followed by YAP; the opposition bloc Yeni Siyaset (YeS, or New Politics), which unites the Azerbaijan National Independence Party, the Social-Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, nonpartisan candidates, and individual politicians from various opposition parties (69); and the opposition Liberal Party of Azerbaijan (67). In all, 26 individual parties and blocs will participate in the election, compared with 11 in 1995 (including five opposition parties) and 19 in 2000.
The total number of candidates, too, is several times larger than in previous parliamentary ballots: in some constituencies there will be 30-40 names on the ballot sheet. All parliamentarians are to be elected in single-mandate constituencies; the provision that 20 percent of deputies (25 of the total 125) are elected on the basis of party lists was abolished in the constitutional referendum in August 2002 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 1 July 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2002).
In contrast to previous elections, few opposition candidates encountered problems in registering, even Azerbaijan's two most notorious political exiles, former President Ayaz Mutallibov (YeS), and former parliament speaker and DPA Chairman Rasul Guliev (Azadlyq). Both men face arrest, however, if they return to Azerbaijan, but Guliev's supporters have said he is nonetheless prepared to take that risk and will arrive in Baku no later than 15 October, Turan reported on 19 September. It is, moreover, unclear whether the MSK's wholesale registration of candidates reflects a laudable commitment to democracy or shrewd calculation that the greater the number of candidates in any given constituency the narrower the chance of any opposition candidate defeating the candidate of the "party of power."
The lack of obstacles during registration has not continued into the early stage of the campaign. On the contrary, opposition candidates, especially those from Azadlyq, have complained that as in previous ballots, provincial police and local government officials are openly supporting YAP candidates or nominal independents backed by the current leadership, while systematically harassing opposition candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2005).
Some opposition candidates have also protested aspects of the amended election legislation that they consider discriminatory, in particular the provision that only parties that have nominated over 60 candidates qualify for free airtime on public television. Each registered candidate is entitled to 1 million manats ($217.72) from the state budget to cover the costs of his/her campaign, but just one minute's paid TV advertising costs between $420-$850 on the private television station ANS, between $295-$590 on Azerbaijan TV, and between $420-$640 on the private Space TV, according to zerkalo.az on 9 September, quoting mediaforum.az.
Rates on the recently launched Azerbaijan Public Television will be lower than those on private channels, channel General Director Ismail Omarov announced on 5 September without citing specific tariffs. The maximum a candidate may spend on campaign advertising is 412.5 million manats ($88,000), MSK spokesman Azer Saryev told echo-az.com of 26 August.
For more news about Azerbaijan, see RFE/RL's webpage News and Features on Azerbaijan