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Azerbaijanis Participate in Presidential Elections
12 April 2018, 06:06 | Bernice Figueroa
Azerbaijan strongman to cement power in polls boycotted by the opposition
His position has also been boosted by the steady influx of money from oil into his government's coffers.
Due to an opposition boycott, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is nearly certain to be re-elected.
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. They say it was aimed at shortening the campaign period and hampering the opposition's efforts to prevent vote-rigging.
The national elections commission said that with 65 percent of the ballots counted, President Ilham Aliyev had received 86 percent of the vote in an early presidential election.
The National Council of Democratic Forces, an opposition group, claimed late Wednesday that only about 15 percent of the electorate voted, while Azerbaijan's elections commission reported the turnout at almost 75 percent.
"Many ODIHR (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) interlocutors said they do not expect the election to be genuinely competitive, claiming that those who stand against the incumbent in this election either do not present a political alternative or even actively support him", ODIHR said in a March 29 report.
In addition to Aliyev, of the New Azerbaijan Party; Araz Alizade, of the Social Democratic Party; Gudrat Gasanguliev, of the United Popular Front Party; Faraj Guliev, of the National Revival Movement Party; Hafiz Hajiyev, of "Modern Musavat Party", and Sardar Mamedov, of the Democratic Party, are running for the presidency.
Ogtay Gulaliyev, the leader of Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners advocacy group, seconded her statements in the same publication, by noting that he noticed an increase in troll attacks every time he posted something critical about Ali Hasanov, Aliyev's public relations chief.
Ilham Aliyev was re-elected in 2008 and 2013 in polls that were denounced by opposition parties as fraudulent.
A total of eight candidates, including Aliyev, took part in the presidential race.
Cementing his family's decades-long grip on power, the president previous year appointed his wife Mehriban Aliyeva as first vice president.
But critics argue they have crushed opposition and used their power to fund a lavish lifestyle for themselves and their family.
"They cling on to power to continue looting the country's resources", said the award-winning journalist, who spent 17 months in jail in 2014-2016 after she exposed official graft.
Seven other candidates are running in Wednesday's election, which will be observed by worldwide monitors, including the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) but critics have expressed doubts about how genuine the other candidates are.
Aliyev has denied accusations of rights abuses and corruption.
The country has about 5.3 million people out of a total population of 9.9 million registered voters.
The Central Election Commission was to begin releasing results late Wednesday, following government-commissioned exit polls shortly after the vote closes.
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