Azerbaijan autocrat wins election boycotted by opposition

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The authorities concerned have established 41 polling stations outside Azerbaijan for the presidential election and as many as 13,820 voters are expected to cast their vote in these polling stations overseas.

Eight candidates are running for office in the snap elections - Incumbent President Ilham Aliyev from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, MP Zahid Oruc, Araz Alizada MP, chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Gudrat Hasanguliyev - MP, chairman of the Whole Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Faraj Guliyev - MP, chairman of the National Revival Movement Party, Hafiz Hajiyev - chairman of the Modern Equality Party, Razi Nurullayev - political analyst from the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party and Sardar Jalaloglu - chairman of Azerbaijan Democratic Party.

The country's huge energy reserves and its strategic location along the Caspian Sea means it is viewed by Europe as an important alternative to Russian energy supplies.

"Ilham Aliyev is leading".

The partial results were based on the 65 percent of the ballots counted, he said.

The correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza reported that as of 14:00 (MSK), more than 800 people voted at the polling station at the embassy of Azerbaijan in Moscow, that is, about 60%.

"We are certain that the election results will be rigged and Ilham Aliyev will be announced the victor again", Jamil Hasanly, head of the National Council of Democratic Forces, the Azeri opposition coalition, told Reuters.

The authorities rejected the opposition's criticism, insisting the vote will be free and fair.

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Ilham Aliyev was re-elected in 2008 and 2013 in polls that were denounced by opposition parties as fraudulent. Surveys put support for him at over 80 percent.

Turnout was 68.7 percent, according to the government-commissioned exit poll, but activists earlier questioned official participation figures.

The 56-year-old Aliyev, in power since 2003 when he succeeded his father, and his supporters deny allegations of democratic abuses and election fraud. Since then, two referendum outcomes have passed which scrapped a two-term limit for presidents, and another that lengthened terms of office from five to seven years.

Aliyev brought forward the date of the vote to April 11 from October 17, a move his allies said was necessary to avoid presidential and parliamentary elections clashing in 2025.

Some 5.2 million people were registered to vote in polls monitored by worldwide observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The run-up to the April 11 Azerbaijani presidential election has seen Baku take a page out of the Kremlin's playbook-according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) it is harassing journalists with online trolls and bots.

The OSCE monitors will present their observations at a news conference on Thursday.

Aliyev has tried to strike a balance between big regional power Russia, Azerbaijan's former Soviet master, and the West, notably on energy policy. He has benefited from a boom fuelled by oil exports, but a slump in global crude prices in the last three years has weakened the Azeri currency and shrunk the economy.

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