Azerbaijan votes in presidential election with Aliyev set for fourth term

They have also condemned Aliyev s surprise - and unexplained - decision to hold the election six months ahead of schedule, saying it was aimed at shortening the campaign period and hampering efforts to prevent vote-rigging.

Earlier in the day at a polling station in the capital Baku, 38-year-old schoolteacher Elmira Balayeva said she had voted for Aliyev because he was the only candidate capable of steering the country towards economic wellbeing and political stability.

President Ilham Aliyev claims that in Azerbaijan the internet is free and press freedom is guaranteed.

Aliyev has been in power since 2003, following the death of his father Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB agent who became increasingly authoritarian over his own decade in power.

The move came after Azerbaijan's Electoral Code was amended in December to allow snap presidential elections provided they are announced at least 60 days in advance. Arrangements for the polling had been fine tuned days before the election by the Azeri Central Election Commission (CEC) responsible for holding of free fair and transparent election in accordance with the democratic norms.

Ogtay Gulaliyev, the leader of Azerbaijan without Political Prisoners advocacy group, seconded her statements in the same publication, by noting that he noticed an increase in troll attacks every time he posted something critical about Ali Hasanov, Aliyev's public relations chief.

He was re-elected in 2008 and 2013 in polls that were denounced by opposition parties as fraudulent.

Apart from the incumbent president, seven candidates are running in the poll - all low-profile figures who have barely carried out any campaigning.

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In February 2017, Aliyev appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as first vice president - a post also created by the referendum - placing her first in line to take over if the president dies or is incapacitated.

Some of them have even called on people to vote for Aliyev.

The main opposition parties say the vote is illegal and are boycotting it.

The former Soviet republic's huge energy reserves and strategic location on the Caspian Sea make it an important alternative for Europe to Russian oil and gas.

But critics argue they have crushed the opposition and used their power to fund a lavish lifestyle for the president and his family. The videos included allegations of official corruption, police brutality, and reports on the financial dealing of President Aliyev and his family, and the state oil company.

Seven other candidates are running in the election, which will be observed by worldwide monitors, including the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

There are 5.2 million eligible voters in the country of 9 million people.

In particular, the camera of the central election commission at the polling station in Baku's Yasamal region recorded how a citizen throws several ballots in the box at once.

  • Sonia Alvarado