Azerbaijan votes in polls boycotted by the opposition

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BAKU: Voters in oil-rich Azerbaijan went to the polls Sunday in a parliamentary election widely expected to cement strongman President Ilham Aliyev’s grip on power and boycotted by major opposition forces. International rights groups have denounced Sunday’s vote as an “imitation election” accusing the government of the ex-Soviet state of jailing political opponents under trumped-up charges and limiting parties’ ability to campaign. But Aliyev’s Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party, which faces little challenge from the embattled opposition and is set to easily retain its majority in the legislature, has vowed the election will be fully democratic. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has said it will not send observers to the election, citing “restrictions” imposed on its monitoring mission by the Azerbaijani authorities. None of the elections held in Azerbaijan since Aliyev came in power in 2003 have been recognized as free and fair by international observers.

AFP

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