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Azerbaijani Ruling Party Welcomes 500,000th Member

BAKU -- The ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has registered its 500,000th member, and claims it now has more members than the Communist Party had in Azerbaijan during the Soviet era, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

YAP officials organized a special event on February 2, celebrated as Youth Day in Azerbaijan, to present a membership card and gift to Leman Farzaliyeva, a second-year law student at Baku State University.

YAP Executive Secretary Ali Ahmadov said at the event that his party has "no competitors." He said that even if all the other registered political parties in Azerbaijan merged their memberships, the total would still be smaller than 500,000.

Ahmadov added that every 10th citizen of Azerbaijan is a member of YAP. He said "young people constitute some 40 percent, or 200,000, of the party members."

RFE/RL has been contacted recently by Azerbaijani students who complained about being pressured to join the YAP and to pay the membership fees.