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Azerbaijan Report: October 18, 2003

18 October 2003
Ilham Aliyev Declared Winner Of Presidential Vote
Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev, the son of outgoing President Heidar Aliyev, has been declared the winner by a landslide in the 15 October presidential elections.

Mezahir Panahov, head of the Central Election Commission, told media representatives on 16 October that with 91 percent of the ballots counted, Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev was the clear winner with 79.5 percent of the vote, defeating seven rival candidates.

"There will not be a second round. Ilham Aliyev is far ahead of his opponents," said Panahov. "His nearest rival, opposition leader Isa Qambar, trailed with 12.1 percent." He added that the final results would be published within the next two weeks.

However, Aliyev's victory is being disputed by Qambar, who claims that he won the election by a majority. A demonstration of Musavat activists gathered before the Musavat headquarters late on 15 October, a scene that turned violent and led to battles with police. Several dozen people were wounded and some Musavat activists were arrested. Human Rights Watch cited international observers as saying police attacked Musavat activists with no reason.

On 16 October, new clashes occurred after several thousand opposition backers surged down one of Baku's main thoroughfares on Liberty Square. Interior Ministry soldiers and police officers used batons, metal shields, dogs, and tear gas, and fired shots into the air. According to initial reports, at least one demonstrator was killed and nearly 200 protestors were arrested. (RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service)

Most Former Presidential Candidates Disagree With Election Results
Mubariz Gurbanli, the ruling party Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) deputy executive secretary and Ilham Aliyev's representative, declared that "The outcome of the election has proved successful." According to him, the elections were held freely, fairly, and transparently. Gurbanli added that the escalation of the situation would cost the opposition leaders dearly.

Musavat Chairman Qambar, who claims he won the elections outright, stated that he has no intention of acknowledging what he calls the "falsified" results of the elections. Qambar said that his supporters intend to protect the people's stolen votes and will do so using all means available under the constitution.

Presidential candidate Lale Shovket's representative, Evez Teimurkhan, noted that the matter concerns not the theft of citizens' votes but the loss of another five years. According to him, new elections must be held at once.

Another presidential candidate, Etibar Mamedov, from the opposition's National Independence Party, refused to acknowledge the results of the election, since the matter concerns an issue of total falsification, not just simple irregularities, he said.

The chairman of the opposition group Adalat, Ilias Ismailov, also cast doubt on the Central Election Commission's primary results. He said that he had collected 50,000 signatures to register as a candidate, adding that it was absurd to claim that he received only half of this number of votes. Presidential candidate Sabir Rustemkhanli, head of the Civil Solidarity Party, disagrees with the outcome as well.

Nevertheless, the other two candidates, Hafiz Hajiyev of the Modern Musavat Party and Gudret Hasanguliyev of the People's Front Party's "unifying faction," acknowledge the elections results. At the same time Hasanguliyev pointed out that a number of irregularities on election day have caused a certain amount of discontent in the country. (Babek Bekir)

International Observers Claim The Elections Not Democratic Enough
According to Giovanni Kessler, head of delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and special coordinator of the OSCE chairman-in-office for the Short-Term OSCE Observation Mission, said "the presidential elections do not meet international standards." At a 16 October press conference with Peter Eicher, head of the OSCE Election Observation Mission, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) human rights rapporteur, Guillermo Martinez Cassan, Kessler said that observers registered some violent events. Citizens who supported the opposition faced moral, psychological, and physical abuse. He pointed out that the greatest irregularities were observed during the counting process, adding that OSCE monitors were even witness to ballot-box stuffing. According to Kessler's observation, the presidential candidates regard each other as enemies.

Martinez Casan, head of the PACE delegation, pointed out that he would not be able to express an unambiguous view regarding the transparency and fairness of the elections. Casan suggested that after these elections it would be difficult for Baku to operate in the Council of Europe, as well as in Europe.

Peter Eicher, for his part, expressed regret that he would not be able to declare that the elections were democratic. The candidates were not provided with equal conditions during the election campaign, excepting free air time, and this influenced the formation of certain opinions regarding how the voting process would go. Eicher complained about the omission of numerous people's names on voter lists. He noted that the presidential elections gave the people a great chance to make their choice, but it was missed.

Touching on the confrontation between police and protesters in front of the opposition Musavat headquarters during the evening of 15 October, Eicher said that he held the police responsible for the incident. He also added that the observation mission has facts regarding actions that were taken to keep the vote from being free.

At the same time the participants of the news conference pointed to some positive points in the elections, such as the adoption of a sufficiently democratic election law and a much higher turnout of voters. (Kebiran Dilaverli and Zhale Mutallimova)

Local newspapers run various articles and commentaries regarding opposition Musavat activists' 16 October unsanctioned protest at the central Azadlig Square.

The opposition newspapers "Yeni Musavat" and "Azadlig" accuse Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev of shedding the people's blood.

The opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" points out that the 2003 presidential elections have ended with police interference and unprecedented election irregularities. In fact, the world community must declare the elections results invalid and not recognize them.

According to the opposition newspaper "Baki-Kheber," it is time to sweep Ilham Aliyev and others involved in the falsification out of power. The recent riots prove, it said, that the people do not accept what is being done to them. It is impossible to undermine the people's determination for struggle, even at the expense of blood.

Responding to the question of whether radical opposition leaders will remain on the political scene after the presidential elections, former presidential candidate Gudret Hasanguliyev said in an interview with the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" that this would depend directly on the policy conducted by the head of state. If the president wants, these forces will have to leave the political arena, said. He added that "Bolshevik-minded people within the government must also be dismissed. Otherwise, I do not think that Azerbaijan will achieve serious economic progress and become a civil and democratic country," he concluded.

The independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" and the governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" ran congratulation letters to Ilham Aliyev from the heads of states of various countries, wishing him the best on the occasion of his victory in the presidential elections.

In another article, the newspaper "Azerbaycan" writes that independent Azerbaijan has successfully finished the first election campaign of the 21st century. The preelection campaign was held in a tense atmosphere. In fact, this was "a struggle between good and evil," it said.

Government newspaper "Khalg" notes that "our country's young president, who has profoundly adopted broad tendencies of modern world policy and who knows how to solve the problems of the country's social and economic development, will certainly succeed in bringing his much-loved motherland alongside the world's leading countries." (Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)