Protest threat follows claim of poll fraud in Azerbaijan

By Andrew Osborn in Baku 
Published: 08 November 2005

Azerbaijan's pro-democracy opposition has revealed
plans to attempt a Ukraine-style orange revolution
tomorrow by bringing tens of thousands of protesters
on to the streets in a risky but peaceful bid to
overturn the results of allegedly rigged parliamentary

News of the planned demonstrations came as
international election monitors delivered a damning
indictment of Sunday's vote and almost-final results
showed that the Azadliq (Freedom) bloc of
pro-democracy parties had won just five of the 125
seats. The ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party and an array
of mainly pro-government independents looked to have
won most of the remainder. A reliable source in the
opposition told The Independent that the Azadliq bloc
was so shocked by the results and the scale of fraud
that it had decided to put what he called "a
contingency plan" into action.

"We're going for the revolutionary scenario," he said.
"If they had given us 30 seats we wouldn't be in this
situation. But five seats! What were they thinking? We
have bought orange tents from Turkey, set aside funds
to buy food and got hold of portable toilets. If we
can get 30,000 people on the streets the police will
find it hard to disperse us."

The authorities have authorised the opposition to hold
a three-hour rally in Baku, the capital, tomorrow. But
such rallies are not open-ended and any attempt to
install a permanent presence on Victory Square in the
capital, Baku, is likely to spark police violence.

Elin Suleymanov, a senior aide to President Ilham
Aliyev, whose family has ruled this oil-rich nation
for the majority of the past three decades, told The
Independent that the authorities would have no choice
but to clamp down on violent demonstrations: "If they
want to protest then fine but they must do so within
the law. If they do so outside the law the police will
be forced to act as they have in the past."

Demonstrations after the rigged 2003 presidential
elections were brutally suppressed and at least one
protester died.

President Aliyev went on state television to say that
his government would look at Western criticism and
take "serious measures", but that violations had
occurred in few districts.

The opposition has called for recounts in four-fifths
of the country's constituencies and its grievances
received international recognition yesterday after the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europeand
the Council of Europe said the poll failed to meet
international standards and was seriously flawed. 


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