Aliyev Wins Azerbaijan Presidential Election

Ilham Aliyev won a third term as Azerbaijan’s president to extend his family’s four-decade rule over the former Soviet Union’s third-largest oil producer.

Aliyev, 51, tallied 85 percent in yesterday’s vote with 72 percent of polling stations reporting, the private APA news service said, citing the Central Election Commission in Baku. Camil Hasanli, the candidate backed by opposition parties, got 5.3 percent, with eight others receiving votes, it said.

The Azeri leader succeeded his late father in 2003 and was re-elected five years ago, gaining 77 percent and 87 percent of the vote in the two elections, respectively. Neither contests were deemed free or fair by U.S. and European observers.

“With the support of the people, Ilham Aliyev will rule Azerbaijan for another five years,” Ali Ahmadov, deputy chairman of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, said at a news conference in Baku, according to APA. The party celebrated with its supporters in the city center with a concert and fireworks.

Hasanli, 61, was the first consensus candidate to challenge Aliyev, put forward by opposition groups united under the National Council of Democratic Forces. Hasanli’s campaign headquarters alleged the authorities have allowed widespread fraud, including ballot stuffing and multiple voting, a practice known as a “carousel,” according to a statement on its Facebook page.

The Central Electoral Commission said it didn’t receive any complaints, according to APA. About 5 million of the country’s 9.4 million people are eligible to vote, the regulator said on its website. Thousands of local and international observers from groups including the European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitored the election.

Oil Investment

BP Plc (BP/) and its partners have invested more than $40 billion in Caspian Sea energy projects in Azerbaijan since 1994 and plan to invest another $25 billion by the end of the decade to develop the Shah Deniz natural gas field to supply Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor, which bypasses Russia.

Buoyed by western energy investments, Aliyev has more than tripled the size of the economy in the past decade as oil and gas output surged. That fueled a sixfold jump in the average wage to 403 manat ($517) a month and slashed the official poverty rate to less than 6 percent of the population from almost half, according to the government’s statistics office.

Aliyev said during a televised cabinet meeting Oct. 7 that he’s created more than 1 million new jobs through “massive” investment programs since taking power.

‘Bogus Charges’

Still, Azerbaijan is ranked among the world’s most corrupt and repressive governments by Transparency International and Reporters Without Borders. Dozens of activists, journalists, bloggers and other critics have been arrested or convicted of “bogus charges” during the past 18 months, Human Rights Watch said in a Sept. 2 report.

The European Union last week warned of “continued pressure” on activists, civil society and independent media that includes “intimidation, arrests on dubious charges, detentions, and sentencing without proper respect for international standards and rights of the accused,” according to a statement signed by Catherine Ashton, the 28-nation bloc’s foreign policy chief, and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule.

The EU’s assessment was rejected by Elnur Aslanov, an aide to Aliyev and a member of the ruling party’s political council. Aslanov said in an Oct. 4 interview in Baku that EU officials were “maliciously” seeking to influence the election and that Aliyev’s government has done “everything to ensure that the election is held in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere.”

The U.S. government, which uses Azerbaijan as a transit corridor for non-military shipments to Afghanistan, said it hopes the election will be “a step” toward greater political freedom in the country.

“Both publicly and privately, we continuously urge greater respect for human rights, improved governance and transparency, and stronger anti-corruption efforts,” the U.S. embassy in Baku said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zulfugar Agayev in Baku at zagayev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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