Opposition: Vote Had Transparent
By Mina Muradova and Rufat Abbasov: 11/06/05
While Azerbaijans government has stated that the countrys
long-awaited November 6 parliamentary elections were free
and without disturbances, the countrys largest opposition
bloc has already announced their intention to reject the
Alleged massive violations of election law was
the reason offered to journalists at a press conference
Monday night in Baku. From the beginning, the government
imitated democratic elections in Azerbaijan. Now, we state
that the elections took place with obvious and transparent
falsifications, said Popular Front Party Chairman
Ali Kerimli, a leader of the Azadlig (Freedom) bloc, Azerbaijans
largest opposition alliance.
Official results for the vote will not be announced until
November 7. An Azadlig protest rally has already been planned,
however, for November 8, Kerimli said. Starting on
this day, we will hold peaceful protest actions, he
said. -"We will not allow victory to be stolen from
We will definitely do everything to protect citizens
votes, said Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar, adding
that Azadlig would demand the cancellation of election results.
The bloc will announce the preliminary results of its own
vote monitoring, including observation of the vote count,
on the afternoon of November 7.
President Ilham Aliyev and other government representatives
emphasized throughout the day that the vote for Azerbaijans
125-seat parliament had been free and fair. International
observers have presented the election as a key test of the
countrys commitment to democracy, a key consideration
for Azerbaijan as it increasingly focuses its foreign policy
To date, international organizations have given mixed assessments
of the countrys parliamentary campaign, with particular
concern expressed about police reaction to a series of unauthorized
opposition rallies in Baku. An October 25 decree that instructed
election officials to ink voters fingers to prevent
multiple voting and to allow foreign-funded non-governmental
organizations to observe the vote has been hailed as a significant
step forward, however. On the eve of the election, US Ambassador
Reno Harnish stated that the conditions existed for a democratic
After voting Sunday morning at Bakus School No. 6,
an institution of which he is an alumnus, Aliyev emphasized
Azerbaijans commitment to such an election. The
campaign was successful. Equal conditions were created for
all candidates and it gives me hope the election will be
democratic and transparent. The will of the people will
be expressed in these elections, " Aliyev said.
"After the election, Azerbaijan will continue to develop
in various directions, developing a strong economy ... and
the process of democratization will continue after these
elections," he added.
The preliminary results of opposition monitoring, however,
suggest that strongly held reservations about the governments
commitment to that process still remain.
Azadlig leaders announced the preliminary results of their
monitoring in 113 election constituencies at 7pm (Baku time)
when polling stations closed to count votes. According to
Azadlig campaign manager Panah Huseynov, the opposition
observers registered more than 21,000 voting irregularities,
most of which happened in the second half of the day, when
the number of violations tripled.
Azadlig observers reportedly recorded 2,200 cases of state
officials interfering in the election process, and more
than 1,600 cases of voters receiving instructions about
whom they should elect, Despite the provision of ink for
marking voters fingers, the bloc claimed that 1,272
case of multiple voting occurred, and some 1122 instances
of misapplication of ink or misuse of handheld lamps to
detect the ink. Over 280 cases of police interference in
the voting process were also recorded, Azadlig officials
Observation by a EurasiaNet correspondent at constituencies
in Baku where key opposition leaders were featured as candidates
revealed similar problems. At polling stations in #36 Fourth
Khatai constituency where exiled Democratic Party of Azerbaijan
Chairman Rasul Guliyev is running for election, and in #31
Second Surakhani constituency, where Kerimli was a candidate,
missing names from voter lists and the misuse of ink on
voters fingers appeared to be the most frequent irregularities.
Often, voters who could not find their names on lists just
left the polling stations. I have no desire to go
to court [to have my name added to the voter list] and have
no desire to vote yet, one voter, Minaya Gurbanova,
Sixty-four-year-old Almaz Guliyeva said that she was voting
for the first time in a decade. But ink, not politics, drove
her interest in the poll. I dont believe any
of the candidates in my district. I just wanted to see how
they mark my finger, because it is the first time in my
life, she said.
Azadlig claimed that misapplication of ink and misuse of
ultraviolet lamps occurred frequently. According to bloc
observers in Bakus #46 Ali Bayramli constituency,
#35 Khatai constituency and #9 Binaqadi constituency, water
was used instead of invisible ink on voters fingers.
Ilqar Iskenderov, an opposition observer in Khatais
#25 polling station, told EurasiaNet that the name of one
citizen had been placed on lists in two different constituencies.
He voted in constituency #122 where his finger was
marked and then came to our polling station, where his name
was put as well. We found out that the earlier mark had
not remained; it was not visible, he said.
The Azadlig election headquarters has claimed that ink recently
shipped from Georgia for marking voters fingers has
proven to be useless.
Ink did little to stop another form of multiple, or carousel,
voting, according to some opposition observers. Nizami Hasanoglu,
an observer in polling stations #13 and #14 in Khatai, said
that groups of voters had been transported to the polling
stations by a mini-bus belonging to an unnamed oil company.
Transportation of voters to polling stations, instruction
of voters by election commission officials or pro-government
observers, and a refusal by police to admit opposition monitors
into stations were among the other accusations.
Even electricity could play role, some observers claimed.
In Surakhani constituency, Popular Front Party observer
Irada Aliyeva and Musavat Party observer Gozel Bayramli
came armed with pocket flashlights for the vote count
a defense against extra ballots being added during the power
failures that sometimes characterize Azerbaijans election
days, they said.
Kerimli has expressed a hope that international observers
would provide a principle objective evaluation of
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
which dispatched 663 monitors to Azerbaijan for the election,
more than half of all international observers, will make
its preliminary assessment public on November 7. US Ambassador
Reno Harnish, who participated in monitoring the vote in
#36 Fourth Khatai constituency, however, cautioned against
passing judgement on Azerbaijans election on the basis
of election day alone.
"We need to take into account the whole eight-month
process," Harnish said.
Editors Note: Mina Muradova and Rufat Abbasov are
freelance journalists in Baku.
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