Yesterday's parliamentary election in Azerbaijan "deteriorated progressively during the counting and, in particular, the tabulation of the votes," reported the OSCE, which monitored the election. Ballot counting was "bad or very bad in 43 per cent of counts observed" and election violations included "tampering with result protocols, intimidation of observers, and unauthorized persons directing the process." In addtion, the results of an exit poll conducted by USAID varied widely from the official count in many races. The fraudulent vote comes on the heels of Secretary Rice's visit to Central Asia where she delivered the message to each capital that "one of the elements of a strong and deep relationship with the United States these days is moving forward with democracy." Two years ago, the U.S. and many other nations rejected the results of a rigged parliamentary election in neighboring Georgia. Azerbaijan should be no different if the U.S. is serious about promoting real democracy in the region.
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