President Ilham Aliyev’s New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) won a landslide victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, which were boycotted by all Azerbaijani opposition parties and by Europe’s biggest monitoring agency.
Almost 5 million Azerbaijanis voted at 5,547 polling stations until 7pm local time. Established opposition parties declared a refusal to participate, but some individual opposition candidates ran for seats in the 125-member parliament.
The YAP won 70 out of 125 seats in the previous parliament, which is elected every five years.
It was widely expected that the YAP will maintain its dominance in the parliament, which came in the midst of a persistent government clampdown on dissent that shows few signs of being lifted.
Opposition parties stated that it was impossible for them to campaign fairly to reach the masses due to having to pay commercial rates for being broadcast on television while the ruling party had the option of free television air time.
The Azeri authorities deny wrongdoing and Western governments, who are courting Azerbaijan as an alternative option to Russia for oil and gas supplies, have avoided vocally criticising human rights violations in the country.
Azerbaijan hosts major oil companies including BP PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp.
Human Rights Watch said this week that Azeri authorities had convicted or imprisoned at least 35 journalists and rights and political activists in 2014 and that "the crackdown continued at a dizzying pace."
International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did not observe the vote, citing government restrictions. The OSCE said it would not monitor the election because the restrictions imposed on it by the authorities made credible monitoring impossible.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights was invited to observe the parliamentary election in Azerbaijan but the organisation violated its mandate.
The executive secretary of the YAP, Ali Ahmadov, declared the parliamentary election held in the country legitimate. According to Ahmadov mo serious violations of law were recorded, showing that Azerbaijan holds democratic, fair and transparent elections.
“Azerbaijani citizens actively participated in the election,” he said, adding that according to the preliminary data, over 55 percent of the country's voters participated in the election.
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has consolidated his power since succeeding his father and long-serving leader Heydar in 2003. Aliyev has presided over a period in which officials say revenues from rising oil and gas exports have delivered better living standards.
Ilham Aliyev has been in power since 2003 and from then to 2013 Azerbaijan's gross domestic product (GDP) increased to 7 thousand 850 dollars from 850 dollars. Pipelines to transport Caspian oil and gas to Europe were built during this time. The government forecasts average annual growth of 5 percent from 2013 to 2017.