Even in a dictatorship where one family has ruled for four decades, you would think the government would at least put up a token effort to make its elections look real. But that logic seemingly didn’t apply to the Eurasian Republic of Azerbaijan, where the results of Wednesday’s presidential election were released on Tuesday.
At least, that’s what it looked like when users of iPhones and Android phones who downloaded a special app offered by the country’s elections commission saw that incumbent president Ilham Aliyev had already defeated his sole opposition candidate by the convincing margin of 72.76 percent to 7.4 percent — 24 hours before voters went to the polls.
Meydan TV, an opposition TV network based in Berlin because the Azerbaijan government controls the country’s domestic media, contacted the app’s developer Vusal Isayev through its Facebook page. A company spokesperson told the network that the app had been mistakenly pre-loaded with “old information.”
Indeed, Aliyev’s margins of victory in earlier elections were similar. In 2003 he won 76.84 percent of the vote and in 2008, tallied a whopping 87 percent.
But the “old information" excuse did not account for why the premature election results included the name of the current opposition candidate, Jamil Hasanli.
Aliyev (pictured, voting yesterday) took over the presidency in 2003 from his father, Heydar Aliyev, who had ruled as president of the independent republic since 1993. Before that, Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union and Heydar Aliyev led the Communist Party there, effectively making him leader of the republic, starting in 1969.
In 2012 when Azerbaijan hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, the anti-corruption organization Transparency International criticized the oil-rich country as “plagued by endemic corruption that prevents ordinary Azerbaijanis from sharing in their country’s natural wealth and is a significant barrier to Azerbaijan’s development.”
As it turns out, the day-early “results” posted in the election app were wrong. In yesterday’s balloting, Aliyev was re-elected with 84.6 percent of the vote. Hasanli took just 5.5 perecent.
A group of international observers was not impressed.
“The 9 October election was undermined by limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association that did not guarantee a level playing field for candidates,” the observers wrote the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in its report released today. “Continued allegations of candidate and voter intimidation and a restrictive media environment marred the campaign.”