International observers brand Azerbaijan vote ‘not competitive’

Feb 8, 2024

Baku: Azerbaijan presidential electionwho saw the president Ilham Aliyev Fifth term secured, lackluster political competition and was seriously disturbed electoral shortcomings and media restrictions, election observers said Thursday.
Aliyev was re-elected on Wednesday with 92 percent of the vote in a vote held amid a crackdown on independent media and in the absence of any real opposition.
His victory was the expected result after his country's historic victory over Armenian separatists last year.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers said in a statement released in Baku that the election “was not competitive”.
“Although six other candidates participated in the campaign, none of them concretely challenged the incumbent president's policies in their campaigns, leaving voters with no real choice,” the monitors said.
“Voting took place in a restrictive environment” and election day was marred by “significant shortcomings,” he said.
Monitors noted “voting secrecy issues, lack of safeguards against multiple voting, signs of ballot stuffing” that raised “serious questions about whether ballots were counted and reported honestly.” “.
Observers also said that “recent arrests of critical journalists have hindered the media from functioning independently”.
– 'Imitation of democracy' –
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Aliyev as “dear brother” on Wednesday, even before official election results were released.
During a phone call, the two leaders “expressed confidence that … our two countries will continue to move forward shoulder to shoulder based on the principle of 'one nation, two countries,'” Aliyev's office said in a statement.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky sent a congratulatory message to Aliyev, thanking him for “mutual support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our countries.”
Aliyev's office also said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “congratulated Ilham Aliyev on his victory in the presidential elections and wished him success in his presidential activities for the development of Azerbaijan and the prosperity of our people.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán congratulated Aliyev on his “huge and undeniable victory”, adding that he “looks forward to further strengthening cooperation between Hungary and Azerbaijan as well as between Azerbaijan and the EU during the Hungarian EU presidency.” Looking forward to it.”
They were sent home in September after Aliyev's forces seized the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenian separatists who had controlled it for decades.
But the oil-rich country's main opposition parties boycotted the vote, which one opposition leader, Ali Karimli of the Popular Front party, called a “shaming of democracy.”
The six other candidates running were less well-known and praised Aliyev as a great statesman and commander-in-chief after he called the elections in December, a year ahead of schedule. .
In recent months, Azerbaijani authorities have increased pressure on independent media outlets, arresting several prominent journalists.
Aliyev, 62, was first elected president in 2003 after the death of his father Heydar Aliyev.
He was returned to office in 2008, 2013, and 2018 in elections that opposition parties condemned as rigged.

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