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Azerbaijani Opposition Claims Voting Irregularities

A voter's hands are checked for indelible ink (RFE/RL) Baku, 6 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- In Azerbaijan today, some 4.7 million registered voters are choosing from among 1,500 candidates vying for seats in the country's national parliament.

With three hours left before the polling stations close (7 p.m. local time), Azadliq (Freedom), the main opposition alliance, is already claiming widespread irregularities.

Azadliq election campaign head Panah Huseyn said nearly 6,000 violations had been registered by midday. He claimed that election workers at some polling stations were marking voters' fingers with washable, rather than indelible, ink. He also reported alleged cases in which opposition election observers were denied access to polling stations.

Huseyn's claims could not be independently verified.

Some 1,600 foreign and 17,000 Azerbaijani election observers are monitoring the polls. Their preliminary conclusions are not expected until late tonight.

Isa Qambar, head of Azadliq's Musavat party, said opposition leaders will carefully analyze the outcome of today's vote before deciding on their next step.

"Today, we will observe very closely what happens," Qambar said. "Tomorrow we will study, summarize, and analyze the outcome of the vote. Depending on our findings, we will then specify our [next] decisions, tactics, and slogans."

Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission says nearly 32 percent of voters had cast their ballots by 3 p.m., local time.

(RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service/

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