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Azerbaijan: Opposition Report Violation In Referendum Polling

Baku, 24 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijani opposition ballot observers say that officials are artificially inflating turnout in the referendum on proposed changes to the constitution. Lalazar Mameddli, an observer in Baku's Yasamal district, says that he saw one voter put five voting slips into the ballot box. The electoral official denied the allegation, however.

At another polling station, the official in charge said 400 people had voted but observer Ibrahimli Sarandzham from the opposition Musavat Party said the figure was only 60.

The officials say that by 11:00 a.m. nearly 46 percent of voters had cast their ballots. The minimum 50 percent turnout is needed to make the referendum valid.

The referendum was called to approve a number of amendments to the constitution that officials say are needed to make the charter workable and in line with European norms.

Opposition groups have accused the government and its allies of using incentives and pressure tactics to ensure voters cast ballots and approve the changes.