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Ilham Aliyev Wins ‘Restrictive’ Presidential Election

Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev (pictured above with Russian president Vladimir Putin), has secured a landslide victory in a snap presidential election that was boycotted by the main opposition parties. The country’s Central Election Commission said in a statement that Mr Aliyev received 86 per cent of the vote with 94 per cent of votes counted. Turnout in the vote, held on April 11, was 74.5 per cent.

“I am grateful to my people for voting for our achievements and success,” Mr Aliyev said on state television, soon after the election commission announced the partial results. “People voted for stability, security, and development.” Azerbaijan’s main opposition parties did not participate in the polls and had called for a boycott, claiming that the vote would be rigged.

The International Election Observation Mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has said that the vote took place within a restrictive political environment and under a legal framework that curtails fundamental rights and freedoms, which are pre-requisites for genuine democratic elections.

“Against this background and in the absence of pluralism, including in the media, this election lacked genuine competition. Other candidates refrained from directly challenging or criticising the incumbent, and distinction was not made between his campaign and official activities,” read the OSCE’s preliminary report into the vote. It also highlighted problems on polling day itself: “On election day, international observers reported widespread disregard for mandatory procedures, lack of transparency, and numerous serious irregularities, such as ballot box stuffing.”

This was the first presidential election in Azerbaijan since constitutional amendments in 2016 that further increased the powers of the president. Mr Aliyev, 56, has led Azerbaijan since 2003. He succeeded his father, Geidar Aliyev, who ruled Azerbaijan first as Communist Party boss and then as a post-Soviet president for the greater part of three decades. This new election victory offers the president a further seven years in office.