Opposition Protests for New Azeri Vote

BAKU (Reuters)–Around 20,000 opposition supporters demonstrated on the outskirts of the Azeri capital Baku on Sunday–demanding that the government resign if it does not hold new parliamentary elections.

International observers have said that last Sunday’s parliamentary elections did not meet democratic standards. The ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party won more than half of the 125 seats in Azerbaijan’s parliament.

"The Azeri authorities missed the chance to hold democratic elections on November 6. To achieve democracy in our country we will have to demand the resignation of the government," Ali Kerimli–joint leader of the opposition Azadlig bloc–told the crowd.

Observers from the local mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) put the number of demonstrators–many of whom waved orange flags in the spirit of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution a year ago–at around 20,000.

Police at the demonstration put the numbers at about 5,000. They said there were no disturbances.

After OSCE observers criticized handling of the election–President Ilham Aliyev moved to patch up his international standing with a televised speech in which he accepted there had been some problems with the vote and promised action. The next day election officials ordered re-runs in two constituencies.

But Isa Gambar–head of the opposition Musavat party–said the country would need a re-run of the whole election if it was to put this political crisis behind it.

"We will continue the fight for justice and democracy within the law and this fight will end with our victory–since the population of Azerbaijan is waking up," he said.

One of the leaders of the New Politics bloc–Eldar Namazov–called on the people to side with the opposition and said demonstrations against the government had spread beyond the capital and would continue all over the country.

The opposition has also demanded that the authorities stop political repression and punish anyone found to have falsified election results.

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