International observers brand Azerbaijan vote ‘not competitive’ – Times of India

International observers brand Azerbaijan vote 'not competitive' - Times of India

BAKU: Azerbaijan’s presidential electionwhich saw president Ilham Aliyev secure a fifth term, lacked political competition and was marred by serious electoral shortcomings and media restrictions, election observers said Thursday.
Aliyev was re-elected on Wednesday with 92 percent of the vote, in a ballot held during a crackdown on independent media and in the absence of any real opposition.
His win was the expected outcome after his country’s historic victory over Armenian separatists last year.
The election “was not competitive”, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement released in Baku.
“While six other candidates participated in the campaign, none of them convincingly challenged the incumbent president’s policies in their campaigns, leaving voters without any genuine alternative,” the monitors said.
The vote “was held in a restrictive environment,” they added, with election day marred by “significant shortcomings”.
Monitors noted “issues of secrecy of the vote, a lack of safeguards against multiple voting, indications of ballot stuffing”, raising “serious questions about whether ballots were counted and reported honestly”.
The observers also said that “recent arrests of critical journalists have hindered the media from operating freely”.
– ‘Imitation of democracy’ –
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated “dear brother” Aliyev on Wednesday, even before official election results were released.
During a phone call, the two leaders “expressed confidence that… our two countries will continue advancing shoulder to shoulder, based on the principle ‘one nation, two countries,'” Aliyev’s office said in a statement.
Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky sent Aliyev a congratulatory message, thanking him for “mutual support of our countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
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 Orban congratulated Aliyev on his “enormous and indisputable victory,” saying he is “looking forward to further strengthening the cooperation between Hungary and Azerbaijan, as well as Azerbaijan and the EU during the Hungarian EU presidency.”
Aliyev was heralded at home after his troops in September wrested the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenian separatists who had controlled it for decades.
But the oil-rich nation’s main opposition parties boycotted the vote, which one opposition leader, Ali Kerimli of the Popular Front party, called an “imitation of democracy”.
The six other candidates who were running were little-known and had praised Aliyev as a great statesman and commander-in-chief since he announced the election in December, a year ahead of schedule.
In recent months, Azerbaijani authorities have intensified pressure on independent media outlets, arresting several critical 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 in 2018 in elections opposition parties denounced as rigged.

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