International Community Widely Criticizes Sunday’s Azerbaijan Elections

WASHINGTON (Agence France Presse)–Various European Organizations–NATO–and the US have expressed concern about the legitimacy of parliamentary elections held in Azerbaijan on Sunday.

The elections held Sunday "fell short of OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe]–Council of Europe–and other European standards," the British presidency of the European Union said in a statement in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.

US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli reported that "there were major irregularities and fraud that are of serious concern."

Sunday’s balloting produced an absolute majority for the ruling Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party of President Ilham Aliyev–which defended the conduct of the poll and denied that the assessment of international monitors has been negative.

But on Tuesday a top opposition leader in Azerbaijan said that the government must hold new parliamentary elections or face deman’s for "a change of regime."

"We will use our constitutional rights to change the results of the parliamentary elections and have new elections held," said Ali Kerimli–head of the Popular Front Party.

NATO Chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called Tuesday for an urgent probe into flaws in Azerbaijan’s election process and said–"corrective measures should be taken."

Russia–however–expressed doubts about "the objectivity of the evaluation" by the OSCE. Moscow–which had sent its own observers to monitor the elections–accepted some shortcomings had occurred but claimed these were not important enough to call the election into question.

Turkey–Azerbaijan’s closest ally–called Monday for calm and stability in Azerbaijan. "We welcome the fact that the elections were held without incident," a foreign ministry statement said.

The Azadlig alliance announced that it will hold a rally on Wednesday in Baku.

The decision was taken by the coalition’s leaders on Monday after a Tuesday protest was not authorized by the government.

According to the Azadlig bloc–their main goal is to "protest against falsification of the results of the voting at the parliamentary elections and restoration of justice."

The chairman of the Musavat party and Azadlig bloc co-founder–Isa Gambar–says they have grounds to cancel the results of the voting in 100 of the 125 constituencies in the country.

Gambar stressed–however–that the action will be peaceful.

The National Unity Movement–headed by Lala-Shovket Hadjiyeva will also join the Azadlig alliance.

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