April 12, 2018 / 10:30 AM / 3 months ago

Observers say Azeri vote was unfair, lacked genuine competition

BAKU, April 12 (Reuters) - The presidential election in Azerbaijan lacked genuine competition and was held in an environment of curtailed rights and freedoms, international monitors said on Thursday.

Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003 as leader of the oil-producing former Soviet republic, won a fourth term on Wednesday with more than 86 percent of the vote at an election boycotted by opposition parties who accused him of authoritarian rule and suppressing political dissent.

“The early presidential election in Azerbaijan took place within a restrictive political environment and under laws that curtail fundamental rights and freedoms, which are prerequisites for genuine democratic elections,” observers from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement.

It said that against this background and “in the absence of pluralism, including in the media, the election lacked genuine freedom.”

“We have to consider that, in a political environment where democratic principles are compromised and the rule of law is not observed, fair and free elections are not possible,” Viorel Riceard Badea, head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said in a statement.

Monitors reported “widespread disregard for mandatory procedures, a lack of transparency, and numerous serious irregularities, including ballot box stuffing.”

“More than half of the vote counts were assessed negatively, largely due to deliberate falsifications and an obvious disregard for procedures,” they said. (Reporting by Margarita Antidze;)

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