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Azerbaijan: Clash Breaks Out In Baku After Polls Close

Baku, 15 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Shortly after the polls closed in Azerbaijan's presidential election today, clashes broke out between police and supporters of the main opposition party. Azerbaijanis voted today to elect a successor to long-time leader Heidar Aliev, who is 80 years old and receiving medical treatment in the United States. Aliev's son, current Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, is among eight candidates.

Challenger Isa Gambar of the opposition Musavat Party accused the government of rigging the vote and several hundred supporters gathered outside the party headquarters in the capital Baku and chanted Gambar's name.

Reports say police said the post-election rally was not officially permitted, closed off the street to prevent others from joining, and used truncheons to beat the crowd back. Demonstrators with sticks drove forward before being pushed back by police reinforcements with shields.

The Central Election Commission said more than 70 percent of the electorate voted, and preliminary results are expected tomorrow at the earliest.