Azerbaijan opposition warns against poll rigging after Krygyz revolt

A key opposition leader in Azerbaijan on Friday hailed the popular revolt that ousted Kyrgyz leader Askar Akayev and warned authorities in his country against rigging upcoming parliamentary elections.

Isa Gambar, head of the Musavat party, which this month formed an alliance with two other major opposition forces ahead of the November polls, vowed that they would bring the opposition to power.

"We support democratic forces in Kyrgyzstan and congratulate them with their success. This is yet another warning bell for authoritarian regimes," said Gambar.

The opposition leader said that another revolution could happen in Azerbaijan if President Ilham Aliev tried to fix the results of the elections.

"The Azerbaijani regime must agree to free parliamentary elections and hold them fairly and openly. If this doesn't happen, then revolutionary elections will be unavoidable," he said.

Aliev in 2003 elections denounced as rigged by the opposition succeeded his late father Geidar Aliev, who had been a long-serving leader of the oil-rich Caspian Sea state. This marked the first political dynasty in a former Soviet republic.

Pro-government lawmakers, however, dismissed the events in Kyrgyzstan as irrelevant. They said that while desperate poverty had sparked Thursday's uprising in the Central Asian republic, the standard of living in Azerbaijan was improving.

"In Azerbaijan we will not see a repetition of the events in Kyrgyzstan," said Aydin Mirzazade of the ruling New Azerbaijan party.

While the average salary in Kyrgyzstan stands at US$30 (Ђ23) _ the lowest in the former Soviet Union _ in Azerbaijan it is US$110 (Ђ85) and should reach US$200 (Ђ154) by 2008, he said.

"All this is strengthening the social base of the government. The people supports the government," said the lawmaker.

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