Azerbaijan- Calls for Change 5470-azerbaijan-calls-for-changeAzerbaijan- Calls for Change15 November 1998 As he predicted, Azeri President Heidar Aliev coasted to victory in presidential elections held on 11 October, claiming more than the two-thirds majority needed to avert a second round. The polling was marred by a list of abuses--as described by international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe--that included ballot-box stuffing, interference by local officials, and biased coverage in the state media. At a pre-election press conference on 4 October, the presidential candidates--except Aliev, who was campaigning in the south of the country--discussed their platforms as well as their fears that Aliev, who ran the country during the communist era, would rig the election. The event included heated exchanges between politicians and journalists and lasted three hours. The conference, broadcast live on Azerbaijani Television, is excerpted here.

Nizami Suleymanov, chairman of the Independent Azerbaijan Party: If bribery and corruption are not eliminated in Azerbaijan, we will achieve no goals. These two negative aspects have been flourishing in Azerbaijan since the incumbent authorities came to power. I am very glad that several days ago the current head of state--I am confident that he will no longer occupy the post after 11 October--said that bribery and corruption exist in the republic. He finally acknowledged it and said we would fight against this. But he said it too late.

Ashraf Mehdiyev, chairman of the Association of Victims of Illegal Political Repression: It is stipulated in my platform of political activity that I will rehabilitate the whole nation if I am elected president. I will take care of all citizens like newborn babies. But I will punish those who violate the law on elections and those who conceal their incomes and will not submit a declaration on personal incomes. Citizens who commit these types of crimes will bear responsibility under the law. I will rehabilitate all the remaining citizens, because if we start punishing people for taking bribes, then we will have to eliminate half of the republic. I will regard all citizens equally, but I will be merciless to those who violate the law after I become president. ...
Bags with false ballot papers have been prepared in Azerbaijan. Heads of executive authorities have united, and the necessary percentages have been prepared and will be presented regardless of whether the elections are held or not. I am opposing holding these presidential elections because it is an attack on the people's will and an attack on the constitution. The elections should be held democratically. We should all run in the elections and accept the results of the elections as real men. The planned falsification will in no way be made. ... All possible measures will be resorted to, but finally democratic elections will be held. ... You should be confident that no one will put their foot to our throats.

Etibar Mamedov, chairman of the Party for National Independence of Azerbaijan: I say again ... that the incumbent authorities will try to falsify the elections and that they are continuing to try to do this. Instructions are being given to get members of the [electoral] commission under their thumb. But we have the strength to prevent all this, and we will prevent this. ... By disseminating these rumors, the government wants to prevent the people from turning out to vote in order to implement its falsification operation. Unfortunately, part of the press has joined in the propaganda that the election results will be falsified anyway. That is to say, a mood that they will be falsified anyway means to continue the current life and suffering.

Translation provided by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. 5470-azerbaijan-calls-for-change

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