Five remarkable things about Azerbaijan’s unremarkable election

Originally published by Eurasianet

Azerbaijan’s presidential election was, as predicted, a non-event. Ever-incumbent leader Ilham Aliyev won his fourth consecutive term with an 86 percent landslide, while his token rivals got crumbs of voter support – in the low single digits – according to early official results. Nevertheless, the vote did manage to produce a number of oddities.

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For many Azerbaijani voters, the only choice is to laugh

Azerbaijani voters go to the polls on April 11 for a presidential election. The outcome of the vote is already known: President Ilham Aliyev will be reelected.

But seven other candidates also are on the ballot, and even if they don’t offer Azerbaijanis a viable choice, they are at least providing a source of humor.

One candidate, Hafiz Hajiyev, is frequently compared to Russia’s Vladimir Zhirinovsky for his vicious, often vulgar attacks on government opponents. Young liberal activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has undertaken a mock campaign in support of Hafiz Hajiyev with the slogan, “Make Azerbaijan Great Again.”

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Azerbaijan’s Election Is a Farce

The United States should be condemning Ilham Aliyev’s corrupt regime rather than condoning it.

In the past few weeks, first in Russia and then in Egypt, leaders have used so-called elections to provide a patina of legitimacy for their grip on power. Russian President Vladimir Putin secured yet another term with nearly 77 percent of the vote; Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did even better, nailing down 97 percent of the vote in Egypt. Neither of them deserved congratulations from Western leaders.

In both cases, the outcome of the election was known well before voters went to the polls, as any serious opponents were prevented from running and the cards were solidly stacked in favor of the incumbents. These were not real elections in any sense of the term.

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Azerbaijan’s president prefers pop stars to democracy

RULE ONE of the Dictator’s Handbook: Allow no one else to seriously challenge you in an election. Rule Two: Spend enough of your nation’s treasure to lure a popular Western entertainer to distract from Rule One. Previously, President Ilham Aliyev, son of a strongman who inherited his father’s distaste for democracy, enticed Lady Gaga to perform, then Mariah Carey. Now Mr. Aliyev has booked pop star Christina Aguilera for the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 28.

That will be just 2½ weeks after Wednesday’s presidential election. Mr. Aliyev has so thoroughly suffocated democracy in Azerbaijan that he will certainly win a fourth term by a wide margin. The campaign is entirely uncompetitive. Two opposition parties are calling for a boycott. Mr. Aliyev moved up the election date by six months, perhaps in order to get it out of the way before the auto race, which presumably will be more competitive than the political one.

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At the Baku airport, an Estonian citizen of Armenian origin was not allowed to enter the country

At the same Aliyev yells at every corner about tolerance! Then the news comes out that an Armenian or an Armenian (paid of course) came to Baku and so on. On the other hand, I would like to ask Karina,  do you aware of situation on the Caucasus?

The Azerbaijani authorities deported from the Baku airport an Estonian citizen of Armenian origin, Tallinn City Council member Karine Hovhannisyan, who was not allowed to enter the country where she arrived on March 23 – to take part in the International Teachers Symposium. As “Armenpress” reports, Karine Oganesyan writes about this on her Facebook page.

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Yerevan Slams Aliyev’s Latest Territorial Claim on Armenia; Calls Azerbaijani President’s Remarks ‘Racist’

BAKU, Azerbaijan (A.W.)—Armenian authorities have harshly criticized Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s address to the sixth congress of his New Azerbaijan (Yeni Azerbayacan) party on Thursday, calling his remarks racist.

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Afgan Mukhtarli: I was arrested on orders from Ilham Aliyev

On 14 December, the trial of journalist Afgan Mukhtarli continued at the Balakan District Court. In May this year, Mukhtarli had mysteriously disappeared from Georgia, where he was living, and later resurfaced in Baku – under arrest. The journalist says he was abducted, tortured, and forcefully brought to Azerbaijan, with 10,000 Euro planted in his pockets.

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Is Malta covering up Azerbaijani bribery?

A former policeman in Malta claims that he was fired from his job for investigating large payments made by powerful Azerbaijanis to prominent Maltese politicians.

Speaking to Tom Kingston of the Times of London, former investigator Jonathan Ferris says that he uncovered millions of euros in bribes funneled from Azerbaijan to Malta in return for kickbacks on gas deals. According to Ferris, this investigation of high-level corruption led to his termination from the financial crimes unit of the Maltese police.

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How the Azerbaijani government controls the Internet

Control of the Internet, “bugging” traffic and checking social networks is not news. The government in Azerbaijan has been doing this and doing it all the time. There is only one Internet provider in the country, through which communication with the outside world is carried out. In this situation, it’s very easy to control your people.

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OCCRP blocked in Azerbaijan

On 5 September, the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) was blocked in Azerbaijan.

The block occurred hours after OCCRP published a major investigation into corruption, bribery, and money-laundering, in which President Aliyev, his family, and other powerful figures are alleged to have been involved. The investigation, known as the Azerbaijani Laundromat, is based on leaked banking records, and details the way in which $2.9 billion was laundered through a series of shell companies and then used to bribe European politicians, buy luxury goods, or move money abroad for other purposes.

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