Monitors fault Azeri vote won by Aliyev loyalists

Author: Reuters All articles by this author

More about Reuters

Nov. 08, 2010 15:18
215 159
A woman casts her vote in Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections in central Baku, Azerbaijan, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010.
Photo by AP
BAKU, Nov. 8 (Reuters) - International monitors criticised on Monday a parliamentary election in Azerbaijan that tightened President Ilham Aliyev's grip on power in the strategically important oil and gas exporting nation.
Aliyev loyalists swept the board in Sunday's election, described by one Western diplomat who observed voting as an "absolute sham".

"... the conduct of these elections overall was not sufficient to constitute meaningful progress in the democratic development of the country," monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and European Parliament said in a statement.

The monitors cited an "uneven playing field" for candidates, limitations on media freedom and freedom of assembly, instances of ballot stuffing and vote count irregularities.

Aliyev has been cushioned from foreign calls for reform by Azerbaijan's strategic importance to the West as an energy exporter and transit route for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

With almost all the votes counted, Aliyev's New Azerbaijan Party had increased its share in the 125-seat parliament to over 70 seats from 64 previously, and a host of small parties and "independents" loyal to the government took almost all the rest.

The leading opposition party, Musavat, failed to win a single seat in the assembly, and criticised the vote on Monday as "illegitimate" and a challenge to the Western democracies.

The mainly Muslim country of 9 million people is an ally of the United States in a volatile region bordering Iran, Turkey and Russia at the threshold of Central Asia.

The ruling party said the vote was "free and fair" and the Central Election Commission said "no serious violations were registered that could affect the result." The opposition has often accused the West of muting its criticism for fear of losing out to Russia in the battle for Azerbaijan's oil and gas in the Caspian Sea, key to Europe's hopes of reducing its energy dependence on Moscow.

215 159

The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively public debate through the Disqus system. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. The Kyiv Post will ban flagrant violators. If you think that a comment or commentator should be banned, please flag the offending material.

comments powered by Disqus

Read more in {{sectionName}} section

All in {{sectionName}} section