Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 103

. Many of the approximately 20 parties and groups comprising the Roundtable Conference, the Azerbaijani opposition’s umbrella organization, may boycott the November 12 parliamentary elections if the authorities do not stop a "repressive campaign" against them, a roundtable statement warns. It accuses the authorities of using censorship against some opposition newspapers and of having jailed several prominent opposition figures. According to New Musavat party leader Isa Hambar, the arrests targeted the opposition’s most promising candidates. Thirty-one parties have been registered to compete in the elections against the governing Yeni [New] Azerbaijan party, while another ten or so have been denied registration, reportedly for the most part on legal technicalities. President Haidar Aliev’s senior adviser Vafa Guluzade pointed out in an interview that many of the opposition parties are too small to be considered serious contenders. Meanwhile the Russia-oriented Communist Party led by Ramiz Akhmedov has successfully appealed in the courts for legal reinstatement and is reportedly conducting an effective campaign. (12)

Far from all opposition parties and groups have a democratic record. Among the jailed individuals, the most prominent are the former Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs ministers in the 1992-1993 Popular Front government: Iskander Hamidov, later head of the ultranationalist Grey Wolves party, recently sentenced to 14 years in prison on criminal charges; and Tofig Hasymov, recently arrested for trial on charges of involvement in the March 1995 abortive coup d’etat. The US and other foreign missions in Baku have publicly urged the opposition not to boycott the elections while at the same time urging the government to address the opposition’s complaints. The stakes in Azerbaijan’s election are very high in view of the contest between Russia and the West (including Turkey) over oil and geopolitical positions in the region. Aliev’s party is favored to win through better organization, state support, and oil boom expectations.

Kyrgyz Parliament Rejects Presidential Referendum Bid, Schedules Election.