Azerbaijani opposition prepares for unauthorized rally, citing alleged election fraud
Opposition parties Republican Alternative and Musavat plan to hold an unauthorized rally in Baku after what they say was widespread fraud and rigging in the recent snap parliamentary elections.
The city authorities gave permission for the rally only if it was to be held in the suburban village of Lokbatan, but the opposition refused this proposal and decided to collect the city’s borders.
The rally is scheduled for February 16.
Most opposition and independent candidates considered the election results to be falsified and undemocratic. International organizations that observed the elections agree with this. But the Azerbaijani authorities claim that the elections were fair.
On February 11, a group of independent candidates held a protest in front of the central election commission, but the police violently dispersed it.
Even before the start of the elections, the leader of the Republican Alternative Party (REAL) Ilgar Mammadov promised to arrange a rally in case of falsification. At the same time, REAL member Erkin Gadirli nevertheless got into parliament, becoming the only oppositionist to win the election.
The opposition in Azerbaijan is represented mainly by three large and well-known opposition parties: the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Musavat and the relatively “young” unregistered REAL party.
There is also a large opposition association – the National Council of Democratic Forces, which includes representatives of various parties, mainly the Popular Front.
The National Council of Democratic Forces initially refused to participate in the elections, on the conviction they would be unfair. It is still unknown whether they will participate in the rally on February 16, but they did not express such an intention.
The smallest opposition association is the movement block created before the parliamentary elections, which included independent candidates – mostly young ones – of different convictions. The members of the movement say they most likely will not unite with REAL and Musavat for protests.
The last major rally in Azerbaijan took place in early 2019, when all opposition parties joined forces to rescue the blogger Mehman Huseynov, who went on a hunger strike there, from prison. About 10 thousand people gathered at the Mehsul stadium, where then the authorities allowed to hold rallies.
There are 3,000 members registered in the REAL party, but its supporters, according to REAL themselves, are much larger. The Musavat party has several tens of thousands of members.