Azeri Assembly Cuts Opposition Role in CEC

BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan’s parliament voted on Friday to cut the opposition’s clout in the Central Election Commission–drawing threats of a boycott of a November parliamentary election.

Opposition parties had earlier refused to take up their six seats in the Central Election Commission and objected to a seventh presidential appointee–preventing the 18-member body from forming a two-thirds quorum and starting its work.

Government officials said this could have prevented the election from being held on time.

Friday’s vote stripped the opposition of the right to veto the presidential appointee–allowing a rump election commission of all pro-government members to begin work.

“We had no choice in the matter because the holding of elections was jeopardized and we needed to accept these changes,” parliamentary speaker Murtuz Aleskerov told deputies at the end of a tense session that lasted late into the evening.

Opposition deputies stormed out of parliament before Friday’s voting began. Gulamgusein Aliyev of the Popular Front opposition party told Reuters the changes were unacceptable.

“The parliament’s decision shows that the government isn’t interested in holding a democratic election and we will discuss a boycott of (the election itself),” he said.

Azeri opposition parties refused to participate in the election commission unless changes were made to an election law to allocate more seats to party lists. They say voters are more familiar with parties than with individual candidates.

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

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