Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Polls open in presidential election in Azerbaijan

Polls open in presidential election in Azerbaijan Polls open in presidential election in Azerbaijan
Melinda Barton | 12 April, 2018, 03:27

Polls have opened in an early presidential election in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. According to exit polls, Aliyev garnered 83 percent of the vote in the snap election that was boycotted by the main opposition parties as fraudulent.

The president, in power for 15 years, has also seen his position boosted by the steady influx of petrodollars into his government's coffers.

Opposition parties have said they will boycott the vote, claiming that it is illegal and will be rigged.

Under his watch police have used violence to break up opposition demonstrations, leading the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to say previous elections fell far short of global standards.

However, foreign ministry spokesman Hikmat Hajiyev told DW that the country was a "young democracy, making concrete progress every day towards becoming a democratic society".

"All the candidates enjoy equal rights and opportunities", he added. A development that arose from a "conscious decision by the people of Azerbaijan".

But for Natig Veliyev, a 27-year-old student who did not turn out to vote, "the elections are pure farce". Past elections have been neither free nor fair. "Aliyev simply extends his reign again and again".

"He got 86.09 percent of votes", Mazahir Panahov, the Central Election Commission chairman told a news conference.

The 56-year-old Aliyev has ruled the South Caucasus country of almost 10 million people since shortly before his father's death in 2003.

Ilham Aliyev has been President of Azerbaijan since 2003.

"Ilham Aliyev is leading". One in 2009 eliminated a two-term presidential limit.

In 2016, Azerbaijan adopted fresh controversial constitutional amendments, extending the president's term in office from five to seven years.

The changes drew criticism from Council of Europe constitutional law experts as "severely upsetting the balance of powers" and giving the president "unprecedented" authority.

In February 2017, Aliyev appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as first vice president - a post also created by the referendum - placing her first in line to take over if the president dies or is incapacitated.

The oil-rich Caucasus nation's huge energy reserves and its strategic location along the Caspian Sea means it is viewed by Europe as an important alternative to Russian energy supplies.

But critics argue they have crushed opposition and used their power to fund a lavish lifestyle for themselves and their family.

Aliyev has denied accusations of rights abuses and corruption.

Seven other candidates were running in Wednesday's election, which will have worldwide monitors including the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), but critics questioned whether the other candidates were genuine.