Baku demonstrators demand the dissolution of parliament.

A protestor being restrained by police in Baku on 17 November 2012
(picture by Mehman Huseynov).

Dozens of demonstrators were arrested in Baku over the weekend after participating in an unsanctioned demonstration calling for the dissolution of Parliament.

As was the case with previous protests organised by youth movements and opposition groups in Azerbaijan, the Baku City Council did not issue a permit for the demonstration which took place on Saturday 17, November in Fountain Square, citing potential disruptions to traffic in the city centre.

According to the Facebook event set-up to organise the protest, over 1,700 people confirmed their attendance. In the end only around a hundred turned up.

The rally began at 3:00pm in Fountain Square. Dozens of activists, including political leaders from the Popular Front, Musavat, Open Society and Democratic Parties of Azerbaijan have been arrested. Several protesters claim to have been injured as the police broke up the demonstration. Deputy Chairperson of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Gozel Bayramli, claims that the police broke her arm in the clash.

Most of the detained have been sentenced to either minor fines or 5-7 days administrative detention, terms that reflect the legislation on unsanctioned demonstrations prior to the increase in penalties passed by the Azerbaijani parliament just two weeks ago. The new legislation is not set to take effect for another three months.

Under pressure from young activists who find the style of the opposition leadership inadequate, Azerbaijan’s embattled opposition parties now feel obliged to change tactics. The use of facebook to advertise and promote the event – although used before by youth groups, is a fairly recent phenomena for the main opposition parties.

The demands of the demonstrators for the dissolution of parliament is also seen as an upping of the political stakes ahead of Presidential elections next October.

Political observers do not think that either the government or opposition at this stage want to escalate tensions unnecessarily. Both however are testing each other’s resolve, as well as international reaction.

Source: CEW editorial team