Azerbaijan Bars Another Opposition Candidate from Presidential Poll

Azerbaijan on Friday barred a second opposition candidate from challenging strongman president Ilham Aliyev, amid criticism that authorities are ramping up attempts to stifle dissent in the run-up to October elections.

The oil-rich ex-Soviet state's election commission said that a number of signatures supporting the candidacy of Ilgar Mammadov, the head of the Republican Alternative (REAL) opposition movement, were falsified.

Mammadov has been in jail awaiting trial on charges of fomenting anti-government riots since February and is set to be held in detention until after the polls on October 9.

Representatives from Mammadov's group condemned the decision and vowed to challenge it in court.

"We consider that this is a political decision and not a decision made by the central electoral commission," REAL's executive secretary Natig Jafarli told Agence France Presse.

Last month the authorities barred the country's main opposition candidate, Oscar-winning screenwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov, from competing in the elections on the grounds that he still possesses dual Russian citizenship.

The opposition National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) coalition then chose historian and former lawmaker Jamil Hasanli to replace him as their sole candidate.

Hasanli's candidacy was approved Thursday by the electoral commission in Baku, bringing to 10 the total number of people running in the polls.

Incumbent Aliyev, who took over in 2003 after the death of his father Heydar, a former KGB officer and Communist-era boss, has faced repeated criticism over his human rights record.

He looks certain to win another term despite most of the country's fragmented opposition rallying around its single candidate for the polls Hasanli.

Human rights activists have recently accused the authorities of stepping up a campaign to stifle opposition and muzzle criticism in the run-up to the election.

Source: Agence France Presse

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