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Police Detain More Than 20 Opposition Candidates At Election Protest In Baku

Protesters wrapped in blankets were staging a sit-in Baku when riot police detained all participants.

Azerbaijani police have detained more than 20 opposition and independent candidates who were protesting against results of early parliamentary polls that were also criticized by international observers.

Protesters wrapped in blankets were staging a sit-in on the pavement outside Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission (CEC) building on February 11 when riot police detained all participants and put them on buses.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov said the action was illegal and that participants had not been complying with the law.

According to the CEC the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan) party won 70 out of 125 seats in the single-chamber legislature, while nearly all the remaining mandates went to small parties and independents loyal to President Ilham Aliyev.

International monitors said they had identified widespread procedural violations in a vote count that they said raised doubt about the fairness of the election.

Aliyev called the vote nine months early to consolidate his authority.

The opposition said the election was marred by widespread violations which included ballot-box stuffing.

With reporting by Reuters