The Presidential election in 2003 confirmed Ilham Aliyev, son of President Heydar Aliyev (former First Secretary of the Azerbiajan Communist Party) as successor to his father. This election was criticized by the OSCE, but accepted internationally, and left the electorate disillusioned when the parliamentary elections took place in 2005. So only 50% of the electorate voted.
However campaigners (inspired by Georgia and later Ukraine) had been trying since 2003, when they organized minor protests, to promote popular resistance to electoral fraud and repression. The opposition gained unity in 2005 and the opposition Azadlig bloc ran 115 candidates and tried with public demonstrations to launch their own ‘orange revolution’. The OSCE and Council of Europe condemned human rights abuses and government manipulation of the elections, but western diplomats encouraged the opposition to limit their protests to the courts and authorized rallies, although even authorized demonstrations attracted repressive measures.