Ahead of the October presidential election, the Milli Majlis has adopted two changes proposed by President Haidar Aliev to the electoral law in response to opposition demands. The first reduces the minimum turnout for a valid election from 50 to only 25 percent. The second–pertaining to the procedure of gathering voters’ signatures for the nomination and registration of presidential candidates–allows individuals to sign the nominating petitions of more than one presidential candidate.
Because its electorate is small and divided, the opposition would have found it difficult to collect sufficient signatures throughout the country for registering its several presidential aspirants. The opposition’s electorate, however, is a committed one, whose weight would be maximized by a low general turnout. The authorities had recently made some other adjustments to the law in response to international recommendations and to opposition demands. The opposition, however, insisted particularly on these two points.
Controversy now centers on the law on the Central Electoral Commission. The law empowers the Milli Majlis to nominate twelve members, and the president another twelve members of the twenty-four-member body. Formally, the commission’s members must be politically unaffiliated. Nevertheless, the law makes it possible for the authorities to pack the commission with their supporters. The pro-presidential majority of the Milli Majlis has nominated eleven members, and the president has nominated seven, leaving six slots for the opposition to fill. The opposition, however, refuses to make nominations and demands full parity. Numerous statements by the opposition have threatened to boycott the election unless its demands are fully met. The opposition renewed these warnings yesterday. (Turan, Western agencies, July 10 through 13)
HISTORIC MOSQUE IN BAKU REOPENS.