Azeri Opposition Role in CEC Challenged

BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan’s parliament speaker threatened on Thursday to trim the role of opposition members in the Central Election Commission (CEC)–saying their boycott of the body was disrupting plans for upcoming parliamentary elections.

The absence of six opposition members prevents the remaining 11 participants from having the quorum needed to proceed with preparations–such as registering candidates–for the parliamentary poll on November 5.

“We can’t put this off any longer and parliament will decide tomorrow what amendmen’s to make to the CEC law so work can continue,” Parliament Speaker Murtuz Aleskerov told a meeting of the election commission.

Changes could include reducing the number needed for a quorum–replacing opposition members–or allowing the commission to function with simple majority decisions instead of the current two-thirds–he said.

Ali Kerimov of the opposition Popular Front party told Reuters his party could boycott the election altogether if any changes were made to the election commission law.

“These calls to change the CEC law will only serve to strengthen the government’s role in the organisation and that could compel us to boycott the election,” Kerimov said.

Two weeks ago Azeri opposition parties said they would not participate in the creation of the election commission unless a parliamentary election bill was changed to allocate more seats to party lists. Opposition leaders say voters are more familiar with parties than with individual candidates.

Previous elections in the oil-producing former Soviet republic have been criticised by international observers.

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