Opposition slams West over "double standards"

The Azeri opposition has accused the West of pursuing a "double standards" policy by refusing to recognize the outcomes of the Belarusian presidential election and turning a blind eye to a similar situation in Azerbaijan in late 2005.

"The fact they issued differing responses to the Belarusian elections and Azeri November 2005 parliamentary elections indicates that the West is exercising a double standard approach towards democratic development in Azerbaijan," the major opposition Azadlig bloc said in a statement. The election in this tightly-controlled former Soviet republic Belarus was criticized by many international observers. Lukashenko, in power since 1994, defended his re-election - officially by a tally of 82.6% of the vote - as "honest and democratic".

Opposition rival Alexander Milinkevich scored about 6%. Ali Karimli, chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) included in Azadlig, said the United States and the European Union issued a harsh reaction to electoral fraud in Belarus, refusing to recognize the results of the poll. "The West was speaking of sanctions against the incumbent authorities of Belarus. Unfortunately, such a position was not taken against the Azerbaijani authorities which falsified the parliamentary elections," he stated. The PFPA chair maintained that although the Azerbaijani opposition was better prepared than their Belarusian counterparts and the country's authorities "used more regressive methods than the Belarusian government", the West had failed to either take this into account or support democratic development in the country. As for the reasons for such "double standards", Karimli declined comment, saying this should be rather addressed by political analysts. The Azadlig bloc also sent a letter to the Belarusian opposition leader Milinkevich expressing its support. Besides PFPA, the Azadlig bloc comprises the National Unity Movement, the Azerbaijan Democratic Party and the Party for National Independence wing led by Ali Aliyev.