Aliyev sweeps elections: preliminary tallies

16 October 2008 03:35 (UTC+04:00)
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was overwhelmingly re-elected for a second five-year term at Wednesday`s elections. The incumbent head of state gained 89% of votes, according to preliminary tallies announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Among six other hopefuls, the closest rival won only 2.7% of the popular vote at the election, which was intensely watched by both local and international observers. Turnout was 75.64% of eligible voters, or about 4.8 million people, the CEC said.
Three exit polls conducted by groupings of Azerbaijani non-governmental organizations each gave Aliyev over 80 percent.
"Ilham Aliyev has won," Ali Ahmadov, executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, told a press conference at the end of election day. "His victory is the victory of the Azerbaijani people."
Ahmadov said no shortfalls capable of affecting the outcome of elections were revealed during the voting.
European lawmakers highly assessed the conduct of elections.
"Based on my observations, I can say that the presidential election in Azerbaijan was held in a free, fair and democratic manner. It fully complied with international regulations," said Germany`s former secretary of state Otto Hauser, who monitored the polling.
He emphasized that the Azerbaijani government had invited over 1,000 international observers to monitor the polling, which indicated that the authorities were interested in a transparent electoral process. He said any attempts to rig the vote were out of the question given that so many international observers were observing the elections.
"If any international observers want to criticize this election, they should first look at their own countries. Has an election like the one held in Azerbaijan been held there? I have observed a slew of elections around the world. The latest elections in Ukraine and Georgia were termed by international groups as democratic. If those elections were democratic, international organizations should apply those criteria to Azerbaijan as well."
Baroness O`Cathain, member of Britain`s House of Lords, said the elections proceeded normally. She expressed disappointment with the fact that some opposition parties were boycotting the poll, saying "the job of political parties was to be involved in social life."
O`Cathain said some of Azerbaijan`s electoral experience should be applied in other European countries. The advanced features include proper preparation of voter lists, release of information about candidates, as well as the opening of a hotline. "This experience could be used as a model in democratic states," O`Cathain said.
Axel Fischer, member of German Bundestag (parliament), said he did not come across any irregularities during his observations. He agreed that the vote was fully in line with international standards. Fischer termed the installation of web cameras, which had been placed in 500 ballot stations throughout the country to increase transparency, as an important novelty in the electoral process.
Vineta Muizniece, member of the Latvian Parliament (Saeima), said the elections were free and transparent.
Internatioanal observers also praised the latest changes made to Azerbaijan`s Election Code, terming this as one of the key factors for the conduct of democratic elections.
The main opposition leaders were boycotting the vote, accusing Azerbaijani authorities of persecuting the opposition, muzzling the media and fixing previous polls.
Leading opponent Isa Gambar, who placed second in the 2003 presidential vote, denounced Wednesday`s election as a farce.
"This is a just an imitation of an election by Ilham Aliyev`s regime," Gambar, leader of the opposition Musavat party, told AFP. "All of the real opposition parties and all the people who support real democracy in Azerbaijan are boycotting this election."While some opposition protests may take place after the vote, analysts say there is little appetite in Azerbaijan for a revolution or turmoil.
Over 1,200 international observers were monitoring the vote, including almost 400 from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which will issue its verdict on the conduct of the election Thursday.
Over 45,000 local observers monitored the voting.