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Azerbaijan - General Elections

The ruling party wins the general elections that are contested by the opposition

The ruling party wins the general elections that are contested by the opposition

07/11/2005 - Results

The New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) led by the President of the Republic Ilham Aliev won the elections on 6th November in Azerbaijan. The party that is in power at present did however lose its absolute majority that it held in the previous term in office and according to the still incomplete results it has won 65 seats in the Milli Mejlis (Parliament), in comparison with seven for the Opposition Block Azadlig (Freedom), that rallies the Popular Front led by Ali Kerimli, the Moussavat Party led by Isa Gambar and the Democrat party led by Rasoul Gouliev. Thirty eight seats were won by independent candidates some of whom are in fact in favour of the present government. Mehriban Alieva the wife of the President of the Republic Ilham Aliev, who was standing for the first time, was voted in with 92.12% of the vote.

These general elections did not really find much enthusiasm amongst the electorate; only 46.83% took part in the vote.

The executive secretary of the New Azerbaijan Party Ali Akhmadov, maintained that the general elections were "transparent, just and democratic" and that the irregularities observed were not enough to affect the results. For his part the president of the Central Electoral Commission, Mazahir Panahov, emphasised that the general elections had taken place in a democratic manner. "We saw nothing during the election that might be considered alarming," he pointed out. These words were rejected by the opposition who did not wait for the first results to denounce the fraud. "These were the most fraudulent elections that have ever been held in Azerbaijan," declared the president of the Opposition Block Azadlig, Panakh Guseinov.

"We do not acknowledge the legitimacy of Parliament. These general elections cannot reflect the will of the people of Azerbaijan. There has been massive fraud. It was not an election but a poor imitation of one. From Tuesday on we shall start a peaceful fight within the context of the constitution to invalidate these fraudulent results," stressed Ali Kerimli, leader of the Popular Front, who incidentally was beaten in his constituency.

One thousand two hundred and ninety one international and two thousand Azerbaijani observers were in charge of monitoring the election. According to the mission for observation from the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in spite of "some improvements", the elections "did not fulfil a certain number of commitments for democratic elections." "The errors observed, especially on the day of the election, led us to the conclusion that the election was not in line with Azerbaijan's international commitments," declared the head of the observation mission for the OSCE Alcee Hastings. "I am sad to say that the progress seen during the pre-electoral period was cancelled out by the significant errors committed during the counting."

The OSCE denounced the intervention of the authorities in the campaign and during the election, an unbalanced composition of the electoral commissions as well as "the disproportionate use of force to prevent demonstrations" and "arbitrary detention."

The improvements observed involved the allocation of free airtime to candidates on the public media, the possibility of organising a number of demonstrations, the stamping of the electorate with indelible ink, an information campaign to the electorate, the distribution of new identity papers and the transparency of several commissions.

For his part the vice President of the Moussavat Party, Vurgun Eyub, maintained that seven opposition representatives had been arrested in a polling station in Surahani, a town that lies in the suburbs of the capital Baku and that observers had been thrown out of twenty three polling stations before the end of the voting.

Over the last few days campaign directors working with the Popular Front, Kabil Mamedzaïev, and the Democratic Party, Faramaz Djavadov, were arrested by the police. The latter was condemned to twelve days in prison for having resisted during his arrest. On the eve of the election the police announced that they had arrested several people in the opposition polling stations. "All evidence of the violation of electoral procedures is being examined and steps will be taken. Some of the results will be invalidated and the authors of the irregularities will suffer administrative or penal sanctions," ensured Nazim Issaïev, political adviser to the presidential administration. The latter warned that the government would monitor opposition activities closely and that security services would know how to put an end to any movement that went beyond the bounds authorised by the ruling power. "If riots occurs and lead to escalation and confrontation the security services will take the necessary steps to end them and that goes without saying," he maintained.

The USA, that is careful to promote democracy everywhere in the world, is also concerned about reducing their energy requirements with regard to the Middle East and about maintaining their influence in the strategic region of the Southern Caucasus. They therefore did not forget their interests and have made the political stability of this country a priority not simply because it is rich in oil but also because it is one of the main transit lanes for their energy supplies. Hence Washington has spent over four billion dollars in the construction of a pipeline that is 1,760 kilometres long crossing Georgia, enabling the transportation of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. "The Americans want development not revolution. They are concerned with stability because of the new pipeline from Bakou to Turkey and fear neighbouring Iran. But they also understand that if democracy is not installed the terrain would be open to Islamic fundamentalism," stressed political analyst Farid Ismailzade at the Johns Hopkins University.

Azerbaijani opposition is now engaged in defying the ruling authorities. "We shall start on Tuesday with a peaceful movement. It will be the starting point for permanent demonstrations until the elections are declared void," declared Ali Kerimli. The Popular Front leader maintained that the town authorities in Baku had agreed to a demonstration on 8th November in a square that lies just four kilometres from the centre of the capital. "We are planning to demonstrate between 15 :00 and 18 :00 on Wednesday 9th November to cancel the election," maintained Isa Gambar, leader of the Moussavat Party, saying that the first project of taking over the roads on Monday had been abandoned in order to win the authorities agreement to the demonstration

However since there is no charismatic leader to bring about consensus the opposition forces do not seem to enjoy the popular support equivalent to that enjoyed by Mikhaïl Saakashvili in 2003 in Georgia nor that of Viktor Yushenko in 2004 in Ukraine. Similarly the parties opposed to the ruling power are insufficiently united to represent a credible alternative to the one everyone calls "the Son" Ilham Aliev, the heir to the dead President of the Republic (1993-2003) Heydar Aliev. "The population is worried about unemployment, the poor performance of services (electricity, gas, transport etc ...) two themes neglected by the opposition who simply speak of free elections and democracy," highlights Farid Ismailzade.

Finally although tension is still running high after the election the memory of the riots after the presidential election on 15th October 2003 and the repression that followed is still very much present in the minds of the population. At the time three people were killed and several hundred were arrested and detained for several months.
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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