Azerbaijan's strongman Ilham Aliyev re-elected for fourth consecutive term

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The national elections commission said that with 65 percent of the ballots counted, President Ilham Aliyev had received 86 percent of the vote in an early presidential election.

In addition to Aliyev, of the New Azerbaijan Party; Araz Alizade, of the Social Democratic Party; Gudrat Gasanguliev, of the United Popular Front Party; Faraj Guliev, of the National Revival Movement Party; Hafiz Hajiyev, of "Modern Musavat Party", and Sardar Mamedov, of the Democratic Party, are running for the presidency. Operations will remain in place in Azerbaijan until April 18 to be present for the vote counting and assess post-election developments.

The Central Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements including installation of 1,000 Web cameras, setting up of polling stations in missions of Azerbaijan overseas to conduct election in a free and transparent manner.

"All the candidates enjoy equal rights and opportunities", he added. "Only thanks to him is Azerbaijan a stable country with a strong economy", she said.

But for Natig Veliyev, a 27-year-old student who has refused to go to the polls, "the elections are pure farce".

The election comes amid worsening economic conditions in the country, prompting antigovernment protests. "Aliyev simply extends his reign again and again".

"We are certain that the election results will be rigged and Ilham Aliyev will be announced the victor again", Jamil Hasanly, head of the National Council of Democratic Forces, the Azeri opposition coalition, told Reuters.

Azerbaijan strongman to cement power in polls boycotted by the opposition

Ogtay Gulaliyev, the leader of Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners advocacy group, seconded her statements in the same publication, by noting that he noticed an increase in troll attacks every time he posted something critical about Ali Hasanov, Aliyev's public relations chief.

In 2009, Aliyev amended the country's constitution so he could run for an unlimited number of presidential terms in a move criticised by rights advocates.

The changes drew criticism from Council of Europe constitutional law experts as "severely upsetting the balance of powers" and giving the president "unprecedented" authority.

Supporters have praised the Aliyevs for turning a republic once thought of as an ex-Soviet backwater into a flourishing energy supplier to Europe.

The referendum also abolished the minimum age for presidential candidates, which used to be 35, sparking speculation that Aliyev was grooming his son, Heydar, who was 19 years old at the time, to eventually become president. The younger Aliyev has further cemented the family's grip on control by appointing his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva as first vice president. The videos included allegations of official corruption, police brutality, and reports on the financial dealing of President Aliyev and his family, and the state oil company.

Moreover, the CEC has accredited 890 global and 58,175 domestic observers to monitor the presidential election.The worldwide observers represents 59 countries and 60 organisations including the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), PACE, CIS who are coming to Azerbaijan to monitor the presidential election.The basic objective is to ensure transparency.

The Central Election Commission was to begin releasing results late Wednesday, following government-commissioned exit polls shortly after the vote closes.

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