The most recent sorry turn came during the Oct. 9 presidential election in Azerbaijan, won with 85 percent of the vote by President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled with dictatorial powers since the death of his father, Heydar, in 2003.
Aliyev has imprisoned opponents, controlled the news media and, according to investigative journalists, amassed huge personal wealth from the small Caucasus nation’s vast oil and gas resources. His two main opponents weren’t even in the race – one, Ilgar Mammadov, is in prison and the other, famous filmmaker and scriptwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov, was excluded because of his dual Russian-Azeri citizenship. The token opposition candidate, Jamil Hasanli, didn’t stand a chance.
The electoral farce took on comical proportions when, a day before the election, the Azerbaijan Central Election Commission mistakenly sent out the results of the election, showing Aliyev easily winning. Officials said they were merely conducting a test of a new application with dummy numbers, but few found the explanation believable.