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No surprises as Azeri president nears re-election

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No surprises as Azeri president nears re-election

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The people of Azerbaijan have been voting in a presidential election in which there was only ever one likely winner. The incumbent Ilham Aliyev is standing virtually unopposed. Exit polls suggest he has won more than 80 percent of the vote.

The main opposition leaders boycotted the ballot, claiming vote-rigging and a lack of media freedom mean the result is a foregone conclusion. The six candidates appearing alongside Aliyev on the ballot papers are all seen as loyal to the president.

Around 400 international observers are in place; they have criticised previous elections for falling short of democratic norms. Nestled between Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan is of strategic importance to the West. It also happens to be rich in gas and oil, so much so that economic growth last year was a whopping 26 percent, nine percent lower than the previous year.

Aliyev, whose father led the country during and after Soviet rule, points to this success as the reason for his popularity. With both Moscow and the West keen to maintain good relations, few governments have been willing to question his reasoning.