Campaigning for Azerbaijan’s presidential election next month kicked off as incumbent Ilham Aliyev prepares to face a candidate backed by the secular opposition’s largest alliance in a decade.
Aliyev, who’s been touring the country and signing decrees to increase public-sector wages, visited newly reconstructed schools in the capital, Baku, today as pupils returned from summer vacation. His challenger is Camil Hasanli, a prominent historian and professor at Baku State University who was nominated last month by the opposition National Council of Democratic Forces.
Aliyev, 51, who succeeded his father in a disputed presidential ballot 10 years ago, was nominated by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, or YAP, in July to compete for a third term in office. The Azeri leader’s family has run the oil-rich Caspian Sea state for more than four decades.
Human Rights Watch said Sept. 2 that the authorities are engaged in a “deliberate” and “abusive” strategy to limit dissent before the vote. The New York-based group also reported a “dramatic” deterioration in the government’s record on freedom of expression, assembly, and association in the last 18 months.
Eight other candidates representing small pro-government parties are also running in the election, which is scheduled for Oct. 9. The opposition’s initial choice, Oscar-winning screenwriter Rustam Ibrahimbayov, was disqualified because he also holds Russian citizenship.