Gündem Haberleri

    Polls close in Azerbaijan presidential election

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    15.10.2008 - 09:08 | Son Güncelleme:

    Voting ended for a presidential election in Azerbaijan Wednesday with incumbent Ilham Aliyev all but certain to maintain his grip on power in the strategic oil-rich former Soviet republic. (UPDATED)

    Indeed the only suspense surrounding the vote is how Aliyev will navigate the increasingly choppy waters between Russia and the United States as they vie for the energy-rich country’s allegiance.   

     

    Leading opponents were boycotting the vote, accusing Azerbaijani authorities of persecuting the opposition, muzzling the media and fixing previous polls.

     

    The names of six other candidates appear alongside Aliyev’s on the ballot, but all are loyal to the authorities and some have not even bothered to campaign.

     

    Analysts say the only question is by how wide a margin the 46-year-old Aliyev, son of the Caspian states previous president Heydar Aliyev, will surpass the other contenders. Heydar Aliyev dominated political life here for more than 30 years. 

     

    By noon (0700 GMT) voter turnout had reached 33.37 percent, the electoral commission reported. Polls were due to close at 7:00 pm (1400 GMT).

     

    President Ilham Aliyev is all but certain to maintain his grip on power in the strategic oil-rich republic.

     

    A new impetus is expected to be given to the solution process of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as a Turkey-sponsored Caucasus alliance platform to promote dialogue in the region's conflicts.

     

    The main opposition leaders say curbs on democracy and media freedom make participation pointless, and have called on voters to stay at home. Rights groups back their complaints.

     

    The government says Aliyev's popularity is unassailable; in part thanks to an oil boom driving one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, despite the global financial crisis.

     

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

     

    A win for the 46-year-old would give him a new five-year term, his last according to the constitution.

     

    Analysts say the only question is by how wide a margin the Aliyev, son of the Caspian states previous president, Heydar Aliyev, will surpass the other contenders. Heydar Aliyev dominated political life in the republic for more than 30 years.

     

    LITTLE APETITE

    While some opposition protests may take place after the vote, analysts say there is little appetite in Azerbaijan for a revolution or turmoil.

     

    Fuelled by energy exports, Azerbaijan’s economy grew by 26 percent last year, among the highest growth rates in the world, despite widespread corruption.

     

    Baku is booming, with high-rises sprouting across the city and the streets are full of new cars.

     

    Since coming to power in 2003 after his father’s death, Aliyev has walked a tightrope between Moscow and Washington as the two vied for access to the vast energy resources of the Caspian Sea.

     

    Despite criticism of his democratic record, Washington has lauded Aliyev as a key energy partner.

     

    Azerbaijan is the starting point for a strategic corridor of pipelines delivering oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey, and on to Western markets.

     

    But analysts say Aliyev will remain wary of angering Soviet-era master Moscow, especially after August's Georgia-Russia war showed how far the Kremlin was willing to go to protect its interests in the region.

     

    Even before the war, Azerbaijan was in talks with Russian gas giant Gazprom to ship some of its gas through Russian pipelines.

     

    Hundreds of international observers were monitoring the vote, including almost 400 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which will give its verdict on the conduct of the election Thursday.

     

    About 4.8 million people were registered to vote. The Central Elections Commission will begin releasing preliminary results late Wednesday.

     

    Photo: AP

     

    Etiketler:
    

    EN ÇOK OKUNAN HABERLER

      Sayfa Başı