Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev yesterday celebrated a landslide poll win to tie up a third term and further prolong his family’s vice-like rule, in a vote rubbished by opponents as riddled with violations.
With about 98 percent of the ballots counted, Aliyev had sealed a crushing majority at Wednesday’s vote in the former Soviet state notching up about 84.6 percent, with main opposition challenger Jamil Hasanli far behind in second place with 5.5 percent, the electoral commission said.
“The presidential election in Azerbaijan was a triumph for democracy,” Aliyev said in a televised address to the nation early yesterday morning.
“The fact that this vote was free and transparent is another important step towards democracy,” Aliyev said.
However, Hasanli’s campaign has alleged there were “massive” electoral violations across the resource-rich country and promised not to accept the result.
The 51-year-old Aliyev came to power in a disputed 2003 vote after the death of his powerful father Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB officer and communist-era boss who ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million people for the preceding 10 years.
He was re-elected in 2008 with 89 percent of the vote in a poll called neither free nor fair by Western observers and pushed through a referendum a year later that allowed him to run this time round.
Aliyev, who has near-total control over the media in the country, had stayed away from televised debates and passed up public rallies ahead of the polls.
Main challenger Hasanli has blasted the election, alleging a string of violations, including voters being bussed round to cast ballots at multiple polling stations, ballot-stuffing and observers being barred from monitoring the vote.
“Massive violations were carried out across the country,” the Hasanli campaign said in a statement during the vote.
Hasanliad pledged to step down after two years if elected and switch Azerbaijan to a parliamentary system.
Rights groups accused the authorities of an intense clampdown on dissent ahead of the poll.
Meanwhile, something funny happened the day before the election: The election commission announced the winner.
The smartphone app of the Central Election Commission on Tuesday released results showing Aliyev winning 73 percent of the vote.
The commission yesterday apologized, saying the early result was only a test at one polling station conducted by the software developer. It expressed “deep regret” for the “misunderstanding.”
Additional reporting by AP