Azerbaijan prez cements power in boycotted parliamentary polls

The Central Election Commission said Aliyev's Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party took at least 69 seats in the country's 125-seat parliament.

Baku: Azerbaijan's ruling party has won an outright majority in parliamentary polls that were boycotted by the mainstream opposition, near-complete results showed, cementing strongman President Ilham Aliyev's grip on power.

The Central Election Commission said Aliyev's Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party took at least 69 seats in the country's 125-seat parliament yesterday, with 91 per cent of votes counted.

International rights groups have cast doubt on the election, accusing the government of jailing political opponents on trumped-up charges and limiting parties' ability to campaign in the ex-Soviet state.

Not a single election held in Azerbaijan since Aliyev came to power in 2003 has been recognised as free and fair by international observers.

The leader of the opposition Musavat party, Isa Gambar, told AFP that a win for Aliyev's party was a foregone conclusion "in the absence of strong opposition candidates and amid widespread violations".

He decried "countless instances of electoral fraud, including multiple voting and illegal restrictions on observers' work".

Final voter turnout stood at 55.7 per cent, said the Central Election Commission.

The tightly controlled Caucasus nation's leading opposition parties, including the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), the Musavat party, and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, all boycotted the polls, with the NCDF calling them an "imitation" of elections.

Another major opposition party, the Republican Alternative (REAL), said it would not recognise the results.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did not send observers to the polls, citing "restrictions" imposed on its monitoring mission by Azerbaijan authorities and condemning the "crackdown on independent and critical voices".

Aliyev yesterday criticised the move as "unacceptable."

Any display of public discontent and political dissent usually meets a tough government response in the country of 9.5 million people.

Rights groups say the government has particularly clamped down on opponents since Aliyev's won a third consecutive term in 2013, extending his family's decades-long hold on power in the energy-rich Caspian Sea nation.

Both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International condemned the authorities' systematic attacks on opponents in the lead-up to yesterday's election.

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