BAKU -- The ruling Yeni Azerbaijani Party (YAP) has claimed that there was an increase in the number of young people who joined the party last year, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported.
In a statement on the YAP website
, the party claimed that 70 percent of roughly 1,000 new party members in Ganca, Azerbaijan's second-largest city, are "young."
It did not specify what it meant by "young."
YAP said it acquired its 500,000th member on February 2 and by December membership reportedly had risen to 523,790. The Ganca branch of YAP has some 24,000 members.
Azerbaijan's total population is 9.9 million, roughly one in four of whom are under the age of 18.
Several state-sector employees have complained to RFE/RL that they were pressured to join the ruling party and pay monthly membership fees.
Seventy-four of the 125 candidates elected in the November 7 parliamentary elections are YAP members, as are many of the 38 candidates who ran as "independents."
Yeni Azerbaijan Party was established in 1992 by the late President Heydar Aliyev and is now chaired by his son, incumbent President Ilham Aliyev.
Azerbaijan's Communist Party had some 400,000 members when it was dissolved in 1991. It was reestablished in 1993.