BAKU -- An Azerbaijani member of parliament from a small pro-government party has rejected as inappropriate one of the criticisms leveled by a European legal advisory body against the new draft law on political parties, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Zahid Oruj from the Ana Vatan (Motherland) Party told RFE/RL the purpose of the amendments was not to establish a network of suitable parties, as some claim. He specifically defended the article raising the minimum number of members a party must have in order to register from 1,000 to 5,000.
The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, described that increase as "unjustified." But Oruj said the lower figure had resulted in the registration of parties that existed only on paper. He said the proposed increase was "normal" and "will deepen the scale and geography of parties."
The Venice Commission's opinion
compares the new draft law with comments the commission offered in 2004 on the existing law on political parties. It highlights provisions in the new draft that fail to take its earlier recommendations into account.
The commission also notes that the draft law "improves some of the articles of the existing law, notably in the field of financing of political parties."
Speaking to RFE/RL, opposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Qambar accused the Venice Commission of conducting behind-closed-doors negotiations with the authorities.
"The Venice Commission should work openly and transparently. They should come to Azerbaijan and conduct consultations with representatives of political parties. Instead of doing this, they are conducting secret talks with the authorities and making public an opinion," Qambar said.
Qambar is one of several other opposition party leaders who are concerned that the amendments are directed at forming a one-party system.
Azerbaijani government officials recently told local media that the draft law -- prepared by the presidential administration -- was compiled in accordance with the Venice Commission standards, taking into account the opinions of other political parties.
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