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Azerbaijani Parliament Approves Pro-Government Election Commission

Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev votes in elections in November.
BAKU -- Azerbaijan's Milli Meclis has confirmed a new Central Election Commission (MSK) that strengthens the ruling party's control of the body, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The MSK consists of 18 members: six from the majority party in parliament, six from minority parties, and six nominated by independent deputies.

The ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) maintained its overall majority in the November parliamentary elections.

The YAP's six MSK members, including Mazahir Panahov, who served as MSK chairman for over a decade, were all reelected to the commission.

The country's most respected opposition parties -- Musavat and the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party -- lost their parliamentary mandates in the election and are no longer represented on the MSK.

Iqbal Aghazadeh, a longtime parliament member and head of the opposition Umid party, told RFE/RL he was strongly against the current regulations used to select members for the commission.

"By appointing six nonpartisans to the MSK, the authorities are actually preserving their majority on the commission," Aghazadeh said. He explained that the nominally nonaligned deputies are, for the most part, close to the YAP or even members of it.

Aghazadeh said the opposition had proposed that not only those parties represented in parliament be represented on the MSK, but that parties that garnered a certain percentage of the vote in the elections but did not reach the threshold to enter parliament should also be included on the MSK.

The Council of Europe's Venice Commission has for years sought to induce the MSK to revise the formula for its composition to guarantee more equitable opposition representation.

Read more in Azeri here