Ilham Aliyev wins third term as president of Azerbaijan
Opposition claims poll marred by violations
Supporters of Azerbaija’s president Ilham Aliyev celebrate his victory in the presidential elections in Baku yesterday. Photograph: David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters.
Ilham Aliyev won a third term as president of the oil-producing ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan yesterday in an election the opposition said was marred by voting violations.
Aliyev’s control over most levers of power and media outlets made his victory a foregone conclusion for many in the nation of nine million, even though the fractious opposition united for the first time in a presidential poll behind a single candidate.
Election officials said a partial count gave Aliyev 85 per cent of the vote in the Caspian Sea country he has dominated since he succeeded his long-ruling father a decade ago, presiding over an economic boom fuelled by oil and gas but tolerating little dissent.
Dozens of cars honking and carrying the flags of Azerbaijan and Aliyev’s ruling party cruised down Oilman Avenue, a central Baku thoroughfare whose high-priced boutiques have come to symbolise the massive oil revenues enjoyed by the Azeri elite.
“Aliyev is the elected president and he will be ruling our country for the next five years,” said Ali Akhmedov, a senior official of Aliyev’s ruling New Azerbaijan Party, after exit polls gave him more than 80 per cent of the vote.
The Central Election Commission, which later posted the partial count figure on its website, did not say what percentage of the ballots had been counted.
Aliyev (51), whose late father Heydar led Azerbaijan for years during the Soviet era and for a decade in 1993-2003, won the presidency in 2003 and 2008 in votes international observers said fell short of democratic standards. He opened the path to a third five-year term by backing a 2009 referendum that scrapped presidential term limits. He has faced criticism at home and abroad over the government’s treatment of its critics, as protests are quickly quashed and one rights group said a pre-election crackdown had doubled the number of political prisoners.
The election commission said opposition candidate Jamil Hasanly, a 61-year-old historian, received 5 per cent of the vote. There were eight other candidates.
Hasanly, a former lawmaker and adviser to the late Abulfaz Elchibey, who was president for about a year in 1992-1993 but was driven from power shortly before Heydar Aliyev’s election, said there was evidence of violations including ballot stuffing.
“We are collecting evidence of many violations and they give grounds to assume this election is not democratic,” he said.
A video published by the BBC’s Azeri service showed one man stuffing several voting papers into a ballot box.
The election commission said no electoral violations had been reported.