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Azerbaijan President Aliyev wins third term

Partial results from Azerbaijan's presidential election point to a landslide win and a third five-year term for incumbent Ilham Aliyev. The opposition has made allegations that the vote was rigged.

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Azerbaijan's Aliyev leads polls

After voting ended in Azerbaijan on Wednesday, a partial count showed Ilham Aliyev winning by a landslide of over 80 percent. Election officials announced the partial results, saying just over 80 percent of the ballots had been counted. Aliyev was expected to easily win a third term, and his party claimed victory on the publication of exit polls indicating an easy win.

"I am grateful to the Azeri people for voting for me and putting their trust in me and the future development of the country," Aliyev said in an evening address on state television.

Before polls had closed, Aliyev's main opponent was making claims that the vote had been tampered with.

Jamil Hasanly - who looked set to win around 5 percent of the vote - said his supporters had collected evidence of election violations, including citizens who voted at more than one polling station.

"We are collecting evidence of many violations and they give a basis to assume that the elections are not be democratic," Hasanly was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying after he had cast his vote.

Aliyev barely campaigned in the traditional sense, with his political allies saying it was unnecessary after a decade of successful rule. The oil-rich former Soviet republic has logged consistent economic growth, with some trickle-down effect to its poorest people. The president is also widely credited with walking a savvy foreign policy tightrope - preserving largely positive relations both with neighboring Russia and the West.

The Aliyev family has ruled Azerbaijan for the vast majority of the past half century, albeit with a brief hiatus around the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ilham's father Geidar (sometimes written Heydar) Aliyev was the country's last Soviet leader and in 1993 returned to power in the fledgling democracy.

In 2009, Azeri voters decided at a referendum to abolish term limits for presidents - a measure Aliyev had endorsed ahead of the vote - meaning he was cleared to run for a third term. In Azerbaijan's 2008 presidential election, which garnered criticism from international observers, Aliyev won just over 87 percent of the vote.

Azerbaijan is a major supplier of oil and natural gas to the European Union, still heavily reliant on Russian fossil fuels. The country borders Russia, Iran and Turkey, and rights groups like Amnesty International allege that Aliyev's behavior is not closely scrutinized by the West because of the strategic importance of positive ties with the government in Baku.

msh, mz/lw (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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