European group leader says elections will test Azerbaijan democracy

European group leader says elections will test Azerbaijan’s democracy

AP Worldstream; Aug 23, 2005

The president of a European organization said Tuesday that November
parliamentary elections would test democracy in Azerbaijan, while an
opposition leader accused authorities of seeking to undermine his
campaign by running candidates with the same name.

“The upcoming elections are a test case for your country,” Rene van
der Linden, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe, told a news conference at the end of a two-day visit to the
politically tense Caucasus Mountain nation.

Referring to the Nov. 6 elections in Azerbaijan and a constitutional
referendum in neighboring Armenia, he said that “for both countries
it’s a real opportunity to show the international community that you
are willing and able to fulfill the commitments of free and fair
elections.”

Van der Linden also urged Azerbaijan’s opposition to act responsibly
and “approach the elections in the constructive spirit of democracy,”
and called on law enforcement organizations to solve the March slaying
of opposition magazine editor Elmar Huseinov.

Tensions are high before the vote, with opposition groups fearing
fraud on the part of the government.

A leader of the opposition alliance Yeni Siyaset, Eldar Namazov, said
two candidates who shared his name have been nominated to run in his
district _ one a businessman and the other a prison guard _ in what he
called a bid to draw votes away from him by confusing voters.

Accusations of vote-rigging after the October 2003 presidential
election erupted into violence in the oil-rich former Soviet
republic’s capital, Baku.

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