Azerbaijan autocrat wins election boycotted by opposition

Ilyas Umakhanov Azerbaijan holding open honest and democratic presidential election

In power for 15 years, Aliyev received 82.7 percent of the vote, a government-commissioned exit poll conducted by Azerbaijani pollster Els Independent Research Center showed.

"There is no alternative to Aliyev".

The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said in a March 29 report that it did 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".

Opposition lawmakers have also accused Aliyev of calling the elections six months ahead of schedule in order to shorten the campaigning period and hinder attempts at preventing ballot-stuffing.

But for Natig Veliyev, a 27-year-old student who has refused to go to the polls, "the elections are pure farce". Arrangements for the polling had been fine tuned days before the election by the Azeri Central Election Commission (CEC) responsible for holding of free fair and transparent election in accordance with the democratic norms. "He got 86.09 percent of votes", Mazahir Panahov, the Central Election Commission chairman told a news conference. "Aliyev simply extends his reign again and again".

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.

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.

The April 11 presidential election is the first election after the Constitutional amendments of the country, which enabled Aliyev to run for office for the 4th time for a 7-year term.

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Since Aliyev won the last election in 2013, Azerbaijan's Constitution has been amended to extend the presidential term 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.

Supporters have praised the Aliyevs for turning a republic once thought of as an ex-Soviet backwater into a flourishing energy supplier to Europe.

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

Some 600 global and 60,000 national observers from 11 parties are monitoring the transparency and order during the elections, which are also taking place in 421 polling stations overseas.

The country has about 5.3 million people out of a total population of 9.9 million registered voters.

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