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    Azerbaijan president set for landslide re-election, opposition boycotts vote

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    14.10.2008 - 13:25 | Son Güncelleme:

    President Ilham Aliyev is poised to sweep to a second term as leader of oil-rich Azerbaijan, in the strategically important Caucasus mountain region, as the opposition boycotts the voting on Wednesday.

    The vote comes just two months after a war between two of Azerbaijan’s neighbors, Russia and Georgia, and is being watched closely in Washington and Moscow.

     

    The election is believed to accelerate the peace process in the Caucasus region, which hosts a number of conflicts, especially between Russia and Georgia, Azerbaijan-Armenia and Turkey-Armenia.  

     

    But the mood is anything but festive as voters prepare for an election boycotted by Aliyev’s rivals and plagued by allegations of irregularities.

     

    Wednesday’s ballot has failed to stir voters.   

     

    Six leading opposition parties are boycotting the vote, citing past abuses and seeking to pressure Aliyev’s government. 

    The opposition in Azerbaijan will not take part in the "tragicomedy" of presidential elections on Wednesday, a top opposition leader said, accusing the West of complicity in the continuing reign of Ilham Aliyev.

    Isa Gambar, leader of the Musavat party, said suggestions in the West that the oil-producing country was becoming more democratic amounted to "stupidity," and called for the end of the Aliyev dynasty.

    "Like Aliyev's regime lacks political will for democratic change, the West lacks the will to implement that change," Gambar said, alluding to the theory the West is more interested in the country's vast oil reserves in the Caspian Sea than in promoting democracy.

    "I would like to send a clear message to the international community that all talk about the process of democratization in Azerbaijan is plain stupidity," he told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.

    Gambar is leading a boycott of Wednesday's poll by the mainstream opposition. The vote is certain to return 46-year-old Aliyev for a second term as president, continuing the former Soviet state's tradition of unbroken Aliyev family rule.

    The opposition says restrictions on democracy and media freedom make participation pointless. Aliyev won 76 percent in 2003 to succeed his long-serving father Heydar, when Gambar ran. Gambar says the authorities pulled the figure from a hat, and will do so again on Wednesday.

    But some analysts say the opposition shares the blame, having failed again to unite around a single candidate. The opposition has run out of ideas, they say, and -- like the Aliyev government -- is in need of root and branch reform.

    The opposition cause is not helped by the fact Aliyev's rule has coincided with an oil boom fuelling one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the world, filling government coffers in spite of alleged rampant corruption.

    "We don't have elections in Azerbaijan, we have tragicomedy. And we are not going to take part in this," Gambar said.

    "After 2003, people stopped believing in the possibility of peaceful change of power," he added. "One of the main reasons for them not believing ... is the position of the West."

    He stopped short of calling for street protests, which in 2003 left two dead and hundreds in jail.

    The country of 8.3 million people lies at a crossroads between East and West, sandwiched between Russia and Iran and straddling a region emerging as a major energy transit route from Central Asia to Europe.

    Analysts say the United States and Europe are anxious not to lose Azerbaijan as an energy supplier, though some question the theory they are necessarily propping up Aliyev.

    Photo: AP

     

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