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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Results Voided in 2 Azeri Votes

APPolice at the Central Elections Commission building in Baku on Tuesday.
BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azerbaijan's elections commission on Tuesday annulled the results of the weekend's parliamentary vote in two electoral districts and ordered a recount in another, while the ruling party claimed victory.

The rulings by the Central Elections Commission followed opposition accusations of massive fraud and a frank, critical assessment by a Western-dominated monitoring mission.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the elections had problems and irregularities, but the vote itself was legitimate and its results should not be thrown out.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev on Monday acknowledged violations in seven or eight of the country's 125 electoral districts, and said prosecutors would investigate. But he praised the conduct of the elections as a whole and said they reflected the will of the Azeri people.

His New Azerbaijan Party won 63 parliamentary seats, according to preliminary official results. Party secretary Ali Ahmadov said Tuesday that New Azerbaijan had won a "convincing victory."

The president's spokesman, Azer Gasimov, accused the opposition of exaggerating the foreign observers' criticism. He emphasized that the observer mission led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe had pointed to Azerbaijan's failure to meet some -- not all -- international election standards.

"The opposition is misinforming public opinion," he said at a news conference. "The Azeri opposition isn't capable of admitting its own defeat."

The Central Elections Commission is preparing a request for prosecutors to look into specific reports of violations, he said, without elaborating.

The commission annulled the elections in two constituencies and ordered a recount in Surakhani, where one of the opposition's three main leaders, Ali Kerimli, had run. The races were declared earlier to have been won by pro-government candidates. "We're beginning to see a change. They've already acknowledged there were falsifications," Kerimli said. "We have very many facts -- thousands of reports -- and we will act on all of them."

Opposition leader Isa Gambar said the opposition would turn to the European Court of Human Rights if Azeri courts did not deliver justice -- which he considered a certainty.

The opposition Azadliq bloc has received authorities' permission to hold what it promises will be a huge rally in the capital, Baku, on Wednesday. The coalition, which aims to emulate the peaceful Orange Revolution in Ukraine, hopes to mobilize disgruntled citizens who still live in poverty despite Azerbaijan's oil riches. Kerimli said the opposition hoped to bring 50,000 supporters into the streets.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday also criticized the OSCE and its vote-monitoring operation in Azerbaijan, repeating a long-standing call for an overhaul of how it monitors elections. "On the whole, the situation surrounding the evaluation of the Azeri elections says that it is necessary to reorganize the vote-monitoring activities of [the OSCE] to establish well-defined, objective standards of monitoring and evaluation," it said.