Azerbaijan Election Results Confirmed, Opposition Leader Loses Seat
By Rovshan Ismayilov: 12/01/05

Azerbaijan’s Constitutional Court on December 1 confirmed the official results of the country’s November 6 parliamentary elections, with one key opposition leader seeing his election victory thrown out. The ruling prompted leaders of the main opposition alliance to announce that they would press its claim of a rigged vote in an international court.

The Constitutional Court confirmed results in 115 of the 125 constituencies as compiled by the Central Election Commission (CEC), and canceled CEC results in six constituencies. Fresh elections had previously been announced for four constituencies.

Opposition leader Ali Kerimli, chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) and a leader of the tripartite opposition bloc Azadlig (Freedom), and another PFPA activist, Gulamguseyn Alibeyli, a member of parliament, both saw their election victories thrown out as a result of the canceled results. Two independent candidates and two governing Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP) candidates were among the other contenders affected.

Results were cancelled in Baku’s #31 Second Surakhani constituency (Ali Kerimli), #44 Sumgayit-Absheron (YAP candidate Tofik Huseynli), #69 Jalilabad-Masally-Bilasuvar (Gulamguseyn Alibeyli), #103 Gedabey (independent candidate Fakhraddin Gambarov), #106 Tovuz-Gazakh-Agstafa (independent candidate Ilgar Gilijev), and #119 Agdam village (YAP candidate Bakhtiyar Sadigov).

The Constitutional Court is the last step in the process to approve election results. The first session of the new parliament, at first scheduled for December 10, has now been re-scheduled for December 2. Only 115 seats have been determined so far.

Elections for the 10 constituencies whose results have been canceled will take place in January 2006. While the Constitutional Court reduced the number of seats held by the governing YAP, the party still enjoys a majority with 56 seats. The Azadlig bloc, the largest opposition election alliance, including the PFPA, Musavat Party and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, now has only six seats.

While many local observers, including foreign diplomats, had expected the Court to cancel some election results, the decision to throw out Ali Kerimli’s win came as a surprise. The opposition leader had been announced the preliminary winner in his constituency after the CEC canceled results in five of the constituency’s precincts.

In an interview with EurasiaNet, Kerimli, however, said that he is not surprised by the move. “The government did not want to make room for dialogue and compromises,” he said. Although Azadlig officials say they have not yet decided whether or not to field candidates in the January 2006 re-elections, Kerimli himself says that he will not run for parliament again. “I was going to reject my mandate even if my victory would have been finally confirmed.”

Arguing that the election results were rigged, Azadlig has announced plans to boycott the new parliament, scheduled to convene on December 2. Kerimli’s loss will do nothing to change those plans, said PFPA Deputy Chairman Fuad Mustafayev.

“The Azadlig bloc will continue its policy: we still do not recognize the November 6 election results and demand new elections,” Mustafayev said. “We will fight peacefully and within the law, but decisively.”

The bloc’s court struggle will now go to the international level, Mustafayev continued. “All complaints that recently had been sent to the CEC and courts, but were ignored there, now will be addressed to the European Court for Human Rights.”

YAP officials declined to comment on the December 1 ruling. “The Court has a right to confirm the final results or cancel elections in any constituency,” YAP spokesperson Huseyn Pashayev said. “And it did it.”

At the same time, the opposition appears to be counting on a tough reaction from the West. “The Constitutional Court finally confirmed that the elections were totally falsified and the authorities are not going to change anything,” Kerimli said. “[President] Ilham Aliyev emphatically ignored all Western recommendations . . . I think Azerbaijani society has a right now to hope for a principal re-assessment [of the elections] by the international community.”

In a December 1 statement, the European Union announced that the Court's decision “is being studied,” and added that it welcomes the fact that the Court has considered “a series of serious complaints,” the Turan news agency reported.

Local experts doubt that the international community will censure the Aliyev administration as envisaged by the opposition. Rasim Musabekov, an independent political analyst and former independent parliamentary candidate, said that he anticipates “tough criticism by the West, but not more,” adding that Azerbaijan’s opposition is “obviously” not sufficiently “strong” or “popular” to prompt a different reaction. The United States and EU, Musabekov said, are not interested in assigning Azerbaijan the negative “status” of an Uzbekistan or Belarus.

“The West has a lot of strategic interests here, including energy and military ones,” Musabekov commented. “In other words, free Azerbaijani air space for the US Air Force to fly from Europe to Afghanistan is more important for America than ten more seats for the opposition in parliament.”

Musabekov argued, however, that it is conceivable that the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) could place sanctions on Azerbaijan at the Assembly’s January session. “Most probably PACE will not confirm the mandate of the new Azerbaijani delegation in the Assembly,” he said. “PACE has no strategic interests in Azerbaijan beyond democracy.”

The Constitutional Court’s decision came on the eve of a monitoring visit by a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe mission, scheduled for December 2. Andreas Gross, one of the PACE rapporteurs, told Turan on November 25 that the mission intended to visit Baku before the results were finalized to avoid “a worst-case scenario.”

President Aliyev had earlier responded to international concerns about election violations by sacking three regional government leaders and ordering a thorough investigation of election fraud. Four people have been arrested for rigging votes [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Negotiations between the authorities and opposition, mediated by foreign diplomats, had initially encouraged expectations that the opposition would secure a larger representation in parliament. Ali Hasanov, head of the presidential administration’s political department, had called for dialogue with the opposition and projected that 15-20 percent of the election results could be reconsidered by the CEC. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

In the ensuing weeks, however, little has occurred to confirm those expectations. The CEC cancelled election results in four constituencies and re-considered the results in two additional constituencies before passing on the final tally to the Constitutional Court. Calls for dialogue between with the opposition have long since ceased. On November 26, a violent clash broke out with peaceful opposition demonstrators in Baku when police used truncheons and water cannon to break up an attempted sit-down protest. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. A criminal investigation has since been launched into the events.

Meanwhile, the Baku city government has rejected plans for a December 3 opposition rally to be held at the same site, on Galaba Square, asking instead that the demonstration take place outside the city limits, in the village of Baladjara.

Editor’s Note: Rovshan Ismayilov is a freelance journalist based in Baku

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