Party Sees Victory in Azeri Vote
-- The ruling New Azerbaijan Party expressed confidence that it
would win a large majority in Sunday's parliamentary elections,
billed as a test of President Ilham Aliyev's attempts at managed
democracy, but an opposition leader claimed fraud shortly after
the polls closed.
polling stations in and around the capital, Baku, said the voting
itself was freer than at any election during the 12 years of rule
by Aliyev and his late father, Heidar. Most local election officials
appeared to be following instructions not to tell voters whom
to support -- a noticeable change from previous elections.
measures urged by Western governments and agreed by Aliyev just
12 days before election day -- including the spraying of voters'
fingers with invisible ink to prevent multiple voting -- appeared
to be having an effect where they were carried out. But implementation
appeared to be patchy, with opposition observers saying that officials
in some polling stations were not spraying fingers and were advising
people whom to vote for.
leader of the Popular Front, one of three parties in the opposition
Azadliq, or Freedom, bloc, said Sunday night that the voting was
"clearly falsified" and that opposition members of local
election committees were being detained.
elections could not reflect the will of the Azeri people,"
he said. "Beginning tomorrow, we will begin our peaceful
struggle within the framework of the constitution to annul the
head of the Musavat party, Vurgun Eyub, said seven opposition
party representatives had been detained at a polling station in
the Surahani district, outside Baku, and that all opposition observers
had been thrown out of 23 stations just before the polls closed.
The New Azerbaijan
Party's executive secretary, Ali Akhmadov, countered that the
elections had been "transparent, just and democratic"
and said the opposition's claims of fraud "mean they acknowledge
their own defeat."
No. 156, Abuzer Ahmedov, the only opposition party representative
on the local six-member election commission, complained that a
group of 300 young soldiers from a military base 10 kilometers
away had barged into the polling station and that he had not been
able to spray their fingers with invisible ink.
At this, a
New Azerbaijan Party election official, Hasret Rustamov, hustled
over. "Don't believe a word of his lies," she said.
"There were no problems. We let the soldiers in just after
the polls opened."
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