Azerbaijani opposition calls for cancellation of snap presidential election
The Azerbaijani opposition held a protest rally against holding a snap presidential election in the country. It has become the first joint protest of the Azerbaijani key opposition forces (the National Council of Democratic Forces, the Popular Front Party and the Musavat Party) over the past five years.
Although the opposition acquired the municipal government’s permission to hold a rally in the outskirts of Baku, the rally organizers were still summoned to the Baku police headquarters the day before the event. They were warned against the use of any slogans except for those indicated in the letter to the Mayor’s Office.
As usual, different sources provided different data on the number of rally participants. The Baku police reported that the rally was attended by approximately 1 500 people, while the organizers claimed that the number of rally participants reached 10 000. According to JAMnews’ correspondent’s visual estimates, the number of rally participants ranged between 3 000 – 3 500 people.
Here are a few characteristic quotes from the speakers’ addresses during the rally:
• “Throughout 15 years of being in power, Ilham Aliyev’s government couldn’t solve even a single problem facing the country. If the people keep silent, then the incumbent government will become irreplaceable. Instead of thinking about possible extension of its powers, this government should rather pack its suitcases and leave the stage.” (Ali Kerimli, Chairman of the Popular Front Party)
• “This election is unlikely to reflect the people’s free will. There is no environment of fair political competition in the country. The electoral commissions are under the government’s control.” (Arif Hajili, Chairman of the Musavat party)
• “Corruption is the main feature of the government’s anti-national character. The government seeks to hold a non-alternative election rather than a snap one. We will continue the protests.” (Jamil Hasanli, Chairman of the National Council of Democratic Forces)
The rally was held amid an emotional atmosphere, with the rally participants periodically chanting the following slogans: ‘Freedom!’, ‘Resign!’.
As was the case during the previous rally, this time the rally venue (the stadium) had also disconnected the Internet connection. Thus the journalists covering the event had to leave the venue to go to the neighboring facilities to send news updates, photos and video materials to their editorial offices.
Siavush Novruzov, Deputy Executive Secretary of the New Azerbaijan party, termed the opposition’s rally as ‘a complete flop’.
“The rally featured the same people voicing one and the same opinions. The number of participants didn’t change either. It wasn’t a mass rally because the people didn’t show interest in it,” the Report.az online media outlet cited Novruzov as saying.