Six Candidates Approved for Azerbaijan Elections

BAKU (Reuters)– Azerbaijan’s Central Elections Commission said six candidates had qualified to run in October’s presidential vote–an election which major opposition candidates say they will boycott.

None of the five challengers to current President Haydar Aliyev–whose petition was also approved by the commission–has a realistic chance of unseating him in the scheduled October 11 contest for a five year term–political observers say.

Candidates other than Aliyev qualifying are Etibar Mamedov of the National Independence Party–Nizami Suleimanov of Independent Azerbaijan–Khangusein Kyazimli of the Social Prosperity Party–Firudin Hasanov–candidate of a pro-Aliyev communist group–and Ashraf Mekhtiyev–president of the Association of the Victims of Political Repression.

Five main opposition hopefuls–who have formed a coalition called Democratic Congress–say they intend to boycott the poll because of continuing political repression and unfair election laws in the oil-rich former Soviet republic of eight million.

Those potential candidates joining the boycott include former President Abulfaz Elchibey of the Popular Front–former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliyev–currently in exile and facing charges of embezzlement–Musavat (Equality) leader Isa Gambar–Layla Shevkhet-Hadzhiyeva of the Liberal Party–and Ilyas Ismailov–running as an independent. They say the current election laws are designed to allow the 75-year old veteran’strongman Aliyev to rig the vote.

Their main objection is a provision allowing Aliyev and his virtual rubber-stamp parliament to choose all 24 members of the Central Elections Commission–whose members will serve for nine years and also oversee regional and local elections.

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 parties also demand the release of whom they call political detainees and for the vote to be put off by several weeks to allow them to prepare for the election.

They have promised a campaign of civil disobedience in order to force Aliyev–who has been criticized abroad for human rights abuses–to accept a compromise.

Aliyev has lifted overt press censorship and agreed to some minor changes in the election code but has refused to budge on the composition of the elections commission.

On Saturday Democratic Congress held an anti-Aliyev rally attended by up to 20,000 people in the capital–Baku and have promised more demonstrations in coming weeks.

Police said they had detained 106 people at the Baku rally on charges of disturbing public order. Some were given brief jail terms of up to 10 days.

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