(AFP) - Some 200 supporters of a pro-government group in Azerbaijan attempted to storm the headquarters of an opposition party Wednesday in a new sign of tension ahead of November 6 parliamentary elections, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.
Protestors chanted "Shame!" as they pushed against a police cordon in the ex-Soviet republic's capital Baku while trying to break into the opposition National Front party building. The crowd, from the Muasir Musavat (Modern Unity) party, said they were incensed by an opposition leader's alleged contacts with agents from Azerbaijan's neighbor Armenia.
The leader of the Yeni Fikir opposition movement, Ruslan Bashirli, was arrested last week and charged with allegedly accepting Armenian money to finance a revolution in Azerbaijan. Yeni Fikir has an office in the National Front headquarters.
The opposition has denied the accusation, which is potentially damaging because of tense relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, rivals that fought a war in the 1990s over the territory of Nagorno Karabakh. The last two days have already seen scuffles and stone throwing between pro- and anti-government supporters in Baku.
Europe's top election-monitoring body, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), on Tuesday condemned violent attacks directed at the opposition. The head of the OSCE office in Baku, Maurizio Pavesi, called on the authorities to prevent "violent and unauthorized public meetings" or risk causing the "deterioration" of the electoral campaign.