Nine Stand in Azeri Presidential Election

BAKU (Reuters)–Nine candidates met Tuesday’s deadline to submit applications to stand in Azerbaijan’s October presidential election–the Central Elections Commission said.

It said in a statement that President Haydar Aliyev and the leader of the opposition National Independence Party Etibar Mamedov were among the nine.

The other seven candidates were Nizami Suleimanov–Ashraf Mekhtiyev–Abulfat Akhmedov–Khanhusein Kiyazimli–Piridun Hasanov–Ilgar Kerimov–Abutalib Samedov. All are seen as close allies of Aliyev.

Azerbaijan’s radical opposition parties vowed earlier on Tuesday to boycott the October 11 vote in protest at the election rules despite some recent concessions by Aliyev.

Potential candidates boycotting the poll include former President Abulfaz Elchibey of the Popular Front–former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliyev–currently in exile and facing charges of embezzlement–and three others.

Aliyev’s opponents say the electoral code approved by the president and his virtual rubber-stamp parliament will allow the 75-year-old veteran’strongman to manipulate the election.

Aliyev–a member of the Soviet Politburo–has brooked little opposition in the country of eight million. He has overseen an embryonic oil boom from Azerbaijan’s vast Caspian Sea reserves.

Aliyev has changed some provisions of the code–lifted press censorship and released the leader of the long-banned Musavat nationalist party–Isa Gambar.

But the opposition’s main objection–the composition of the Central Elections Commission – remains unanswered.

Under the law–Aliyev and parliament choose all 24 members of the commission. Aliyev has offered the opposition parties six seats out of the 24 in exchange for their participation but the parties still insist on a 12-12 split.

"The government’s position is unacceptable and we reject it. The boycott will go on," Faud Mustafayev–deputy chairman of the Popular Front–one of five parties boycotting the poll–told reporters after talks with Aliyev’s representatives.

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