President Haidar Aliev and eight presidential aspirants submitted on August 11 the lists of voter signatures required for registration as presidential candidates. A minimum of 50,000 signatures from various parts of the country are required from each candidate. The “quintet” of main opposition leaders (see the Monitor, August 12), who threaten to boycott the election, declined to collect signatures. The Communist Party of Azerbaijan, which had been poised to participate in the election, decided at the last moment to boycott it. The CPA charged that the authorities control the process and persecute Communists and other opponents. Two Communist splinter groups, however, decided to take their chances.
Among the eight presidential aspirants, several are minor allies of Aliev or represent groups that function as satellites of the ruling Yeni [New] Azerbaijan Party. Their participation is intended to lend the election an appearance of pluralism in the event that the main opposition parties carry out their boycott threat. However, at least two of the aspiring candidates are independent figures with distinct political records and profiles.
Etibar Mamedov, leader of the National Independence Party, is one of the veterans of the Popular Front who later separated from it. Mamedov and the NIP have in the last few years positioned themselves equidistantly between the government and the “main” opposition, criticizing both. Mamedov seeks–as he did during a pre-electoral visit to the United States–to gain the image of a potential national leader apt to ensure stability in the post-Aliev period.
Nizami Suleimanov, leader of the Independent Azerbaijan Party, was the runner-up to Abulfaz Elchibey in the 1992 presidential election. Suleimanov received 38 percent of the vote on a relatively moderate stance regarding the Karabakh conflict. Suleimanov yesterday made public a platform which focuses on combating official corruption and accelerating economic reforms. He professed confidence that he can handily defeat Aliev in a fair contest. Earlier, Suleimanov had averred that he only aims to be the runner-up.
Most of those in the running have indicated that they seek to win second place behind Aliev. They hope that this could earn them a role in a post-election division of spoils and may also position them advantageously during a succession period. The Islamic Party’s electoral potential is difficult to gauge owing to the ban on the party. Its would-be voters are up for grabs by the candidates. (Turan, August 7-8 and 10-12; Assa-Irada, August 12)
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