Ruling Party Sees Victory in Azeri Vote
BAKU, Azerbaijan -- 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.
Voters at 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
Anti-falsification 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.
Ali Kerimli, 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
"These 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 fraudulent results."
The deputy 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."
Inside School 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
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."