Few surprises are expected in today’s presidential election in Azerbaijan, with the incumbent almost certain to be voted in for a second term. Opposition leaders are boycotting the vote, claiming that what they see as vote rigging and media restrictions would make taking part a futile exercise.
They have criticised Western powers for turning a blind eye to abuses of democracy in the country. Nestled between Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan is of great strategic importance to the West. It also has significant oil reserves in the Caspian Sea.
President Ilham Aliyev won more than three quarters of the vote in 2003. He succeeded his father, who led the country for more than 30 years, first under Soviet rule then as post-Soviet president.
The fairness of the last election was questioned by international monitors, around 400 of whom are present this time round.
Supporters of the president insist he is hugely popular for having brought prosperity to Azerbaijan which, thanks to its natural ressources, is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.