Azer­bai­jan poll a ‘sham’

The Citizen (KZN) - - World - Baku

– 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.”

Il­gar Gasy­mov

Voter in the Azer­bai­jan par­lia­men­tary elec­tions

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