Azerbaijani Opposition Quarrels With OSCE

(RFE/RL)–Several opposition parties threatened to walk out of an OSCE-sponsored round-table discussion on amendmen’s to the Constitution last week following a dispute over the agenda. The opposition demanded before the August 8 discussion that the day’s agenda include issues related to holding the referendum itself–such as transparency and election commissions–a deviation from the agenda. But the moderator of the discussion–OSCE Baku office head Peter Burhard–stuck to the original plan and limited discussion to referenda on taxes–appointmen’s and other issues.

Burhard met with the leaders of five opposition parties the next day to try to resolve the disagreement. Ilias Ismailov–the chairman of the opposition Adalat (Justice) Party – which did walk out on August 8 – said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service that during the meeting the parties expressed their discontent to Burhard. Burhard–he said–promised to discuss the opposition’s proposals with appropriate OSCE institutions and to present an official response at the beginning of the following week.

The Azeri opposition mass media and some opposition leaders allege that the OSCE is under the authorities’ influence. But Ali Kerimli–the head of the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party–told RFE/RL that he did not believe that such an influential organization as the OSCE could fall under the influence of the Azeri government. Kerimli said that he would wait for the OSCE response to the opposition complaints voiced during the 9 August meeting.

The 8 August round-table was the third in an OSCE-sponsored series on the upcoming referendum on changes to the Constitution. All the round-table discussions are being shown on state television. The last two discussions are scheduled for August 15 and August 20.

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