Azerbaijani President wants free and fair parliamentary elections

President Ilham Aliev on Tuesday asked lawmakers to quickly pass legislation to ensure that next month's parliamentary elections are free and fair. The order is a significant concession to opposition political groups and comes amid simmering political tensions before the Nov. 6 vote.

Opposition groups have accused the government of planning to rig the vote, and activists have held rallies nearly every weekend, regularly clashing with police.

In the order to parliament, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press, Aliev called on lawmakers to quickly pass legislation that would allow for marking voters' fingers with indelible ink to help cut down on voter fraud. A similar procedure was in place for recent elections in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The order also directs parliament to pass legislation to ensure voter lists will include voters' addresses, and to allow Azerbaijani nongovernment organizations that receive more than 30 percent of their funding from foreign sources to monitor the balloting. Currently such organizations are banned from monitoring.

Opposition groups praised the move, the AP says.

"(Aliev) has demonstrated his desire to hold democratic parliamentary elections, which is very important to Azerbaijan," said Novella Dzhafarova, head of a women's rights group which planned to monitor the balloting.


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