Azerbaijan poll a ‘sham’
– Voters in Azerbaijan went to the polls yesterday in parliamentary elections decried by the opposition as a “sham” vote that will strengthen President Ilham Aliyev’s grip on power without bringing any real change.
Parliamentary elections had been scheduled for November this year, but Aliyev called early polls in December 2019 after a surprise self-dissolution of the legislature that is dominated by his ruling party.
The move followed a replacement of the prime minister and a number of veteran officials within the presidential administration and the government.
Critics say that Aliyev, 58, seeks to address growing public discontent over an economic slowdown and to improve his government’s image by replacing discredited old elites with younger technocrats.
The opposition had accused the government of limiting their ability to campaign and several parties are boycotting the vote.
“I voted for an opposition candidate,” taxi driver Ilgar Gasymov, 58, said at a polling station in the capital Baku.
“Only the opposition cares about ordinary people’s problems.”
Vafa Alekperova, a 43-year-old schoolteacher, said she voted for a ruling party candidate.
“I trust the party and my hopes for a better future are tied to it,” she said.
Turnout was over 12% four hours after the polls opened, election officials said.
Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaijan party, which faces little challenge from the embattled opposition, is expected to retain its majority in the legislature.
It promised that the election would be democratic.
Central Election Commission chief Mazahir Panahov insisted that “all conditions” had been created for a free and fair vote.
Electoral commissions are controlled by Aliyev’s party and all of the oil-rich country’s television stations have refused to allocate airtime to representatives of the opposition.
Highly dependent on energy exports, the country has since 2015 been hit by a drop in energy prices and the global economic downturn, and has sharply devalued its currency, the manat.
Analyst Anar Mammadli noted that public anger over economic problems has been growing.
“Aliyev chose to hold elections eight months ahead of schedule as he fears that protest sentiment would grow further by November,” he said. – AFP
Only the opposition cares about ordinary people’s problems.”
Voter in the Azerbaijan parliamentary elections