Azerbaijan: Ruling party strengthens control amid violation claims | News | DW | 10.02.2020
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Azerbaijan: Ruling party strengthens control amid violation claims

President Aliyev's Yeni Azerbaijan party has made big gains in Sunday's election. Both the opposition and international observers said there have been significant violations.

Long-term President Ilham Aliyev's ruling party won a majority of seats in Sunday's snap parliamentary election, according to exit polls. Both international observers and the opposition criticized the vote, saying there had been significant violations.

Aliyev's Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party secured 65 seats in the 125-member parliament, the Milli Majlis, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

Aliyev's party later announced on their website that they thought they had won the election.

International election observers criticized the results, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe on Monday saying that "voters were not provided with a meaningful choice" on the ballot, in addition to there being "significant procedural violations during counting."

These echoed claims made by opposition leader Arif Gadjily of the Musavat party who said there was widespread ballot stuffing and people placing multiple votes.

"The elections were totally falsified," Gadjily earlier told AFP.

Economic woes

Two months ago, Aliyev dissolved parliament, replacing his prime minister and several other officials, and moved elections up from November to February amid growing public discontent over an economic slowdown in the south Caucasus country of some 9 million people.

Azerbaijan is highly dependent on energy exports, but a sustained drop in global energy prices dealt a large blow to the country's economy and severely devalued its currency.

Read more: Opinion: Corruption charges have Council of Europe teetering on the brink of irrelevance

Opposition leaders and independent analysts said Sunday's elections would allow the president to remove unpopular old elites under the guise of political reforms, while still retaining his party's hold on power.

Watch video 00:55

Khadija Ismayilova - Investigative journalism in Azerbaijan

The 58-year-old has governed Azerbaijan since 2003 following the death of his father, Soviet-era Communist leader and former KGB general Heydar Aliyev. His wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, serves as vice president.

Fundamental freedoms in the former Soviet republic are "severely limited", according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who oversaw the election.

Azerbaijani Vice-President Mihriban Aliyeva

Azerbaijani Vice-President Mihriban Aliyeva

An OSCE report noted "systematic harassment and criminal prosecution of those who express critical views of the government."

Around 350 OSCE officials monitored the election. Around 5 million people were registered to vote. 

More than 1,300 candidates from 19 parties are in the running for a place in the 125-seat, single-house parliament. Aliyev's Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party, who previously held a parliamentary majority, is expected to face little challenge this time around. 

kmm, kp,ed/ng (AFP, dpa)

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