Election Officials in Azerbaijan Invalidate Results in Three Election Districts
By Rovshan Ismayilov: 11/08/05

Azerbaijan’s Central Election Commission on November 8 nullified parliamentary election results in three constituencies, and announced that three others remained under investigation. The announcement comes a day after opposition leaders and international monitors denounced the parliamentary vote as marred by widespread irregularities.

CEC Chairman Mazahir Panahov announced during a news conference that instances of electoral abuse would force new elections in two constituencies -- #42 in Sumgait and #9 in Baku. In the third district, #31 in Baku, the results in at least six of the 28 precincts were being thrown out.

In addition, the results in three other constituencies -- including #29, where President Ilham Aliyev voted – remain under scrutiny, and Panahov left open the possibility that the results in these races could be nullified. In the 29th district race, the winner, as determined by the preliminary CEC tally, was Fuad Muradov, a young member of the governing Yeni Azerbaijan Party. However, an exit poll conducted by US-Based PA Consulting Group Inc. for USAID indicated that the largest vote-getter was Hasan Kerimov, a politician associated with the main opposition Azadlig bloc.

Azerbaijan’s prosecutor-general, Zakir Garalov, announced during an interview broadcast on state television that his office had been directed by President Aliyev to establish a special working group to investigate electoral abuses. International monitors for the OSCE and other groups cited a wide variety of infractions during the November 6 election, calling particular attention to misconduct during the ballot-counting phase. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. “The [working] group has already started its work,” Garalov said.

On November 8, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement critical of the European Union and American views of the elections, disputing the notion that irregularities were widespread. “There were violations,” the Russian statement said. “However, the scale of the violations does not call for questioning the legitimacy of the election results."

No date has yet been set for the do-over votes. Vidadi Makhmudly, a CEC official, told EurasiaNet that the Election Code does not specify a deadline for the scheduling of new elections.

The CEC moves provided a modicum of good news for the Azadlig opposition bloc, which stands to boost its representation in parliament via the do-over elections. In most of the constituencies in which results have been invalidated, or are under scrutiny, Azadlig candidates were running strong seconds and appeared to be the primary victims of electoral abuses. Nevertheless, the governing party is expected to retain its tight grip on the legislature.

In the 31st district, the annulment of results in at least six precincts put Azadlig co-chairman Ali Kerimli in good position to win a parliamentary seat. If elected, however, Kerimli is vowing to boycott the next parliament unless the results for all 125 constituencies are thrown out and new elections organized. Opposition leaders are planning to mount a public protest on November 9 in an attempt to exert pressure on Aliyev’s administration to organize a fresh election.

Fuad Mustafayev -- a deputy leader of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, one of the three opposition parties comprising the Azadlig bloc -- was dismissive of the CEC’s announcement concerning the invalidation of results.

"The [criticism] of international community including the OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union and the US State Department was adequate, and [Azerbaijani] authorities now are trying to soften the western pressure," he said, adding that Azadlig had no intention of abandoning its protest plans. “We demanded the cancellation of the parliamentary election results, and the CEC's latest decision has not altered our intention."

Editor’s Note: Rovshan Ismaylov is a freelance correspondent based in Baku.

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