On Eve of Elections, Opposition Campaign
By Rufat Abbasov and Mina Muradova: 11/05/05
Police have arrested the campaign manager of a leading
opposition party, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, during
a raid on the party's campaign headquarters conducted
just two days before Azerbaijan's November 6 parliamentary
elections. The campaign manager of a second opposition party,
the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, was detained briefly
for questioning, then released.
According to Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) First
Deputy Chairman Sardar Jalaloglu, about 15 policemen in
civilian clothes from the interior ministry's anti-terrorism
and banditry department rushed into the party's campaign
headquarters late on November 3, to search for a gun and
confiscated campaign promotional materials.
Some 3,000 recently prepared party leaflets with a message
from exiled DPA Chairman Rasul Guliyev urging voters to
take part in Sunday's election were confiscated or
destroyed during the raid. Three other members of DPA were
also detained along with DPA campaign manager Faramaz Javadov
late in the evening of November 3, but after a three-hour
interrogation about where the posters were prepared, the
three activists were released.
Neither the party's leadership nor Javadov's family
have information about his fate. Jalaloglu said that six
Democratic Party activists are still under arrest as well.
As far as we know, they were allegedly searching for
a gun in our headquarters, Jalaloglu told EurasiaNet.
If it is so, why did they seize all of our documentation
and campaign posters with the statements of our leader,
Rasul Guliyev? They did not find any ammunition.
They charged that statements against the government
are written on our posters, but then they admitted that
that is not against the law, added Jalaloglu, showing
posters of Guliyev.
Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson Ehsan Zaidov confirmed
that the DPA campaign manager had been detained, giving
the charge as resistance to law enforcement officers during
the discharge of their duty.
According to Zaidov, police had searched the Democratic
Party's headquarters on November 3 in accordance
with the law to check operative information
about the illegal presence of a gun in the party offices.
No gun was found during the search, Zaidov said.
Another source in the ministry, speaking on condition of
anonymity, told EurasiaNet that Javadov had been sentenced
to 15 days in jail.
The Democratic Party, one of three party members of Azerbaijan's
largest opposition election alliance, Azadlig (Freedom),
has come under increased scrutiny following a failed October
17 attempt by Guliyev to return to Azerbaijan after nearly
ten years in exile. In the weeks since, two cabinet ministers
and several top government officials have been arrested
and charged with organizing a coup in conjunction with Guliyev.
The DPA leader, however, has not been charged nor had his
candidacy for parliament canceled.
At the same time, on the evening of November 4, Qabil Mammadrzayev,
the campaign manager of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan,
another member of the Azadlig election alliance, was also
detained. Party spokesperson Isak Avazolgu said that Mammadrzayev
was released after questioning at a police station. It was
the third detention of the PFPA campaign manager during
the election campaign.
They allegedly took him for a drug smuggler from Iran,
Avazoglu. We see this as pressure on our party and
an attempt to wreck our election campaign."
The interior ministry's Zaidov, however, denied all
information about the detention of Mammadrzayev.
Avazoglu presented the arrest as a continuation of the obstacles
he says Azadliq candidates, made up of party members from
the PFPA, DPA and Musavat Party, have faced throughout the
election campaign. The authorities created artificial
barriers and did not allow our candidates to hold a meeting
with supporters of opposition candidates. Opposition candidates
and their representatives were feeling pressure from local
authorities throughout the campaign. Despite these problems,
we believe in our victory, Avazoglu said
In accordance with election law, parties did no campaigning
on November 5, the day before the parliamentary Nonetheless,
preparation for the vote continues apace.
According to the PFPA's Avazoglu, Azadliq's three
parties will dispatch 5,000 observers to polling stations
nationwide on election day. They have already received
the necessary instructions, he said.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) has also registered
more than 1,300 foreign nationals as international observers.
According to the CEC, 663 observers will operate within
the joint mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation
in Europe (OSCE) and the Office for Democratic Institutions
and Human Rights (ODIHR); about 60 will represent the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); 168 will represent
the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), with the rest
made up of observers from 45 countries, including the United
States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Georgia and
Fifty thousand Azerbaijani citizens have been registered
as local observers.
The International Election Observation Mission, a joint
undertaking of the OSCE/ODIHR, European Parliament, and
the parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE, Council of Europe
and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has announced that
it will issue a preliminary statement about its observation
results at a press conference on Monday, November 7 in Baku.
The ever-changing count of candidates has finally settled
at 1,560. As of November 4, more than 500 candidates (460
men, 46 women) had withdrawn from the race for parliament.
According to the CEC, 476 persons withdrew their candidacies,
while 30 candidates had their registrations cancelled by
Each of the 5,000 voting precincts has already been supplied
with pens to apply ink to voters' fingers and special
ultraviolet lamps to check the mark in order to prevent
multiple voting, said CEC spokesperson Azer Sariyev. Intensive
training sessions on how to use the ink and lamps were held
from November 2-4 for representatives of all election constituencies
and the heads of 124 constituency election commissions (the
125th constituency is located in Khankendi, or Stepanakert,
the capital of Armenian-occupied Nagorno Karabakh.), Sariyev
According to Interior Minister Ramil Usubov, police have
been taking special measures since October 15 to ensure
public order in the country on election day. The intensive
work regime will last until November 10, Usubov said during
a November 3 meeting with US Ambassador Reno Harnish.
Our citizens should feel safe. The police are ready
to take measures against any provocations and disorder,,
Usubov said in a November 5 interview with local television
channels. All main government buildings have been placed
under intensive police control, he added.
In an interview with ANS television on November 3, Presidential
Administration Public and Political Department Head Ali
Hasanov claimed that the government has information about
plans by opposition leaders to organize protests on election
The opposition leaders realize that they conducted
an unsuccessful election campaign and will attempt to organize
various protest actions intended to cast a shadow on transparent
parliamentary elections, Hasanov said. But all
attempts to destabilize the situation in Azerbaijan will
be stopped by the country's law enforcement forces.
The Azadliq bloc has denied that such protests will be held
and reaffirmed that no unsanctioned actions would be organized
until November 7.
International scrutiny of the vote promises to be intense.
On November 4, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack
again stated that Washington will closely monitor the outcome
of the weekend elections in Azerbaijan and hoped that the
vote would be free and democratic. "The free expression
of the will of the people through such elections is vital
to Azerbaijan's future and to a strengthened US-Azerbaijani
relationship," said McCormack.
Editor's Note: Mina Muradova and Rufat Abbasov are
freelance journalists based in Baku.
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