Azerbaijan’s Central Electoral Commission has announced the results from the 100 single-mandate constituencies in the November 12 elections to the Milli Majlis. Seventy-two deputies were declared elected, among them three known relatives of President Heydar Aliyev. Runoffs will be held in 20 constituencies on November 26, and repeat elections will be necessary in eight constituencies where the turnout was below 50 percent. The party affiliation of the 72 winners was not immediately announced, but there can be little doubt that Aliyev’s Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party won handily. The ruling party also won 18 out of the 25 parliamentary seats that were contested by party lists.
The concurrent referendum on the country’s new constitution recorded an 86 percent turnout and a 92 percent yes vote, according to the Commission. Besides expanding presidential powers, the constitution declares Azerbaijan to be a secular state (a move against Islamic fundamentalism); defines the national language as Azeri rather than Turkic (countering the opposition Popular Front’s pan-Turkism); stipulates that the country’s territory includes its sector of the Caspian Sea (a defense against Russian claims and a welcome clarification to Western oil interests); and codifies entrepreneurial freedoms. (15)
While European Union, OSCE, and other monitoring groups from democratic countries reported that the elections were marred by illegal and unfair government practices, stemming mainly from local traditions, the monitors from Russia’s Federation Council issued an opinion that "the vote was democratic and well organized." The authorities "have truly guaranteed democratic reforms and civil liberties in Azerbaijan," according to the group, headed by Federation Council vice-chairman Viktor Bulgakov. The Russian group apparently applied lower standards. (16)
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