President Ilham Aliyev is expected to secure a fourth consecutive term in Azerbaijan’s election on Wednesday that opponents say has already been skewed in his favor. The former Soviet republic’s huge energy reserves and its strategic location along the Caspian Sea mean it is viewed by Europe as an important alternative to Russia for energy supplies. Opposition parties say they are boycotting the presidential vote because of Aliyev’s sustained crackdown on dissent during his rule and a likely rigging of electoral results. “We are not going to participate in this show,” Jamil Hasanly, head of the National Council of Democratic Forces, the Azeri opposition coalition, told Reuters.
The 56-year-old Aliyev and his supporters deny allegations of vote fraud or that dissent has been suppressed.
“Some political forces who decided to boycott the election have boycotted themselves as they were aware of their own defeat in advance,” Malakhat Ibragimova, a member of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, told Reuters.
Aliyev, first elected president in 2003, two months before his ailing father and long-serving leader Heydar died, cemented his position with two referendums – one in 2009 that scrapped a two-term presidential limit, and another in 2016 that extended the presidential term of office to seven years from five.