Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 112

Leaders of Azerbaijan’s opposition parties are warning that they may boycott the upcoming presidential election unless the electoral legislation is changed. Although the parliament on June 9 amended thirty-two out of fifty-nine articles of the law on presidential elections, meeting some of the opposition’s proposals and some Western recommendations, the opposition deems the changes “cosmetic.”

One major objection focuses on the stipulation of “one person-one signature”–that is, a citizen may sign the registration petition of only one presidential aspirant. Since the opposition is divided among several presidential aspirants (see below), most of them fear that they would be unable to collect enough signatures for registration as candidates, unless each citizen is allowed to sign on more than one list. Another major objection focuses on the legal requirement of a 50 percent turnout for a valid election. Opposition leaders want that requirement lowered to 25 percent.

The opposition also objects to the law on the operation of the Electoral Commission, half of whose members are to be nominated by the president of the country and the other half by the parliament. This would guarantee the preponderance of pro-presidential forces, since these forces control the parliament.

Following the June 9 passage of the amendment, three presidential aspirants have been quoted as announcing that they would boycott the election. These are: Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar, Liberal Party leader Lala Shovket, and former chairman of parliament Rasul Guliev, who lives in the United States and is supported by the Democratic Party in Azerbaijan. National Independence Party leader Etibar Mamedov, by contrast, has announced his intention to run. Mamedov and NIP are not part of the Democratic Congress (DC), which groups most opposition parties in a fragile alliance. The DC’s largest organization, the Popular Front, threatens a boycott, but its statements do not ring final. Popular Front leader Abulfaz Elchibey hopes to run as the joint candidate of the opposition. (Turan, Reuter, June 9 and 10).