What do you most want to know from candidates taking part in Azerbaijan’s 2005 parliamentary elections? And from the officials and election observers charged with counting and monitoring the vote? Send in your questions from October 31 through November 6, and we’ll deliver the answers.

November 3
Eldar Namazov, YeS Bloc Leader

With just days to go before the elections, is a YeS-Azadlig opposition alliance still possible? And does the recent presidential decree about inking voters' fingers increase chances for a free and fair vote?

1. I have read that there will not be any formal, official cooperation agreement between YeS and Azadlig. In your opinion, why did this not work out?

We are working with Azadlig on questions of fighting falsification of the elections and this cooperation does not need to be formalized through a document. We wanted to form an agreement with them about the nomination of single candidates, so that the voices of the protest electorate would not be divided. However, the leaders of Azadlig said that there is a possibility to agree only about [presenting such candidates in] two to three constituencies out of 125. For this reason, the agreement was not signed.

2. How did you -- not as leader of the YeS bloc, but as a private voter, as an individual -- relate to the prospective of cooperation between YeS and Azadlig?

As an individual, I have very good relations with the leaders of the Azadlig bloc. They offered that I join this bloc, but fate decided otherwise. We are working with them because we have the same general goals -- a fight for democratic elections and reforms. We are not in one bloc because we have different visions of the tactics and strategy for this fight.

3. Azadlig representatives have touched on the fact that it is too late to demand from their candidates that they give up their candidacies in favor of a single YeS-Azadlig candidate in each constituency. Less than a week remains before the elections . . . don't you think that they're right?

No, I don't think so. Because we officially offered to run single candidates with them in the elections both half a year ago, and three months ago. Even now, before election day, we could go with a joint announcement about taking candidates. Therefore, the issue here is not about time, but about political will.

4. After the last presidential decree [on October 25, about inking voters' fingers and allowing foreign-funded NGOs to monitor the elections], how would you evaluate the chances for holding free and fair elections?

After the president's last decree, the legal violations have only gotten stronger. Apparently, the fate of the May 11 decree [on providing for free and fair elections] also awaits this decree.

5. Very often we hear about the fact that there are too many political opinions in the YeS bloc for you to unite effectively for an election campaign. What do you think?

That is not so. Our bloc is a bloc of social consensus. Leading representatives of all three governments which we have had during independence have gathered together in it. Of course, it's easier to make a decision if you are surrounded only by people from where your hometown and your school friends. But for Azerbaijan now, a wide consensus of political forces is necessary; even of those who, formerly, opposed each other. The creation of our bloc is the first step in this direction.

6. Do you believe that YeS has fulfilled its goals in the election campaign?

We will receive the answer to this question only on November 6. I hope that it will be a positive response.

7. When your bloc was formed, many people talked about the fact that it would be a "third force," an alternative to the traditional opposition. Do you think that the bloc really offers a political alternative?

Undoubtedly. For the first time in a long time, a real alternative to the authorities and "classic opposition" has appeared. I hope that after the parliamentary elections the direction chosen by us will still play a large role in the political process.

8. Is cooperation with the presidential administraton possible in the near future?

For this, the presidential administration should rid itself of corrupt and conservative people and carry out a completely different domestic policy, especially in issues of democracy and human rights.

AZERBAIJAN: ELECTIONS 2005 is a production of EurasiaNet.org with funding provided by the Open Society Institute.
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