Thousands Keep Azeri Protests Alive

BBC–Tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out in the capital of Azerbaijan to protest against the results of the country’s November 6 parliamentary election–saying the polls were rigged.

Some demonstrators called for a permanent protest in the capital until the election results are annulled.

Several hundred riot police watched the rally–the largest yet. Two previous protests passed without incident.

The authorities agreed to recounts in five of 125 electoral districts and are investigating fraud in more than 10 others.

However–they say any changes will not affect the official result–which is due to be announced on November 26.

Stand-off

Up to 30,000 people attended the rally–compared to the 20,000 people at the two previous protests.

Demonstrators–many wearing orange clothing and carrying orange flags in reference to last year’s protest-led "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine–called for President Aliyev to step down. "We will move towards our goal and achieve regime change," opposition leader Isa Gambar told the crowd–the AFP news agency reported.

"These elections were won by the opposition. The people won," he said. One protester held a poster reading: "Bush–why are you keeping silence?"

Many wanted to stay overnight–but opposition leaders told them to go home peacefully to avoid confrontation with police–who have violently beaten demonstrators in the past.

The opposition has warned–however–that it may not abide by government restrictions on demonstrations when the official election results are published in a week’s time.

Freedom of assembly in Azerbaijan is limited–a government permit is required to rally–and demonstrations cannot last longer than two hours and are not allowed in the city center.

The opposition has appealed to the courts and is waiting for a ruling on the legitimacy of the election results–but the government shows little sign of giving in–says the BBC’s Natalia Antelava in Baku.

And some in Azerbaijan believe the opposition has lost its chance of bringing serious change.

The major opposition parties won 10 out of 125 parliamentary seats.

President Ilham Aliyev’s ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party won half the seats and controls many of those won by independents and smaller parties.

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