According to the Turan report, opposition activists who were members of local election commissions were taken into custody during the latest round of arrests. The news agency said many have been subjected to pressure to certify voting results from the October 15 presidential election "This is related to the necessity for presenting protocols to the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan that must confirm the legality of the elections," Turan said. International organizations have said the presidential vote was marred by a variety of irregularities. Observers from the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe characterized the election as a "sham." [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
In recent days, the US government has joined international calls for an investigation into election irregularities. On October 22, State Department officials acknowledged that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called President-elect Ilham Aliyev, son of the outgoing leader Heidar Aliyev, to commend him on a "strong performance" in the October 15 vote. As the international outcry has grown over the Azerbaijani government's actions during the election, as well as the subsequent crackdown on opposition supporters and journalists, the US stance towards Baku has taken on a more critical tone.
In summarizing the content of Armitage's October 17 discussion with the younger Aliyev, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the deputy secretary "warned against a worsening of the situation with any kind of Soviet-style roundup." At the same time, Ereli indicated that the Bush administration remained intent on working with the new Azerbaijani leadership.
The crackdown in Azerbaijan is continuing unabated, opposition leaders say. Hundreds of opposition activists have been detained for allegedly organizing or participating in post-election disturbances in Baku. Turan also reported October 24 that authorities in Baku have demanded that the opposition Musavat Party vacate the building that houses its headquarters by November 1.
In an October 22 interview published by the Zerkalo daily, the leader of the opposition Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli, said over 1,000 Popular Front-affiliated election commission members have resisted certifying precinct voting results "despite facing enormous pressure." Karimli said the recent crackdown severely limited the ability of opposition parties to function. "The [government's] repression machine is firing on all cylinders and is advancing on all fronts," Karimli said. "It seems that their [officials'] aim is to create a one-party political system in Azerbaijan."