Azerbaijan election lacked genuine competition, int'l observers say

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First elected in October 2003, two months before the death of his father, Heydar Aliyev, who ruled for 10 years, Ilham Aliyev was re-elected in 2008 and 2013 - all votes that global observers said fell short of democratic standards.

Azerbaijan strongman Ilham Aliyev on Thursday secured a fourth consecutive term with 86 percent of the vote in elections that global observers said were marred by "serious irregularities" and lack of competition.

"Your victory in the April 11 presidential election is proof of the high support of the Azerbaijani people for your policy aimed at further increasing the welfare of citizens and strengthening the country's worldwide reputation", Nazarbayev said in his congratulatory letter.

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

According to preliminary data of Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission, Aliyev won 86.09% of the vote in the early presidential election on April 11 after 92% of the ballots have been counted.

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Aliyev was first elected in October 2003, two months before the death of his father, Heydar Aliyev, who ruled for 10 years.

New constitutional amendments extended the mandate from 5 to 7 years, while the prohibition to take that position for more than two consecutive terms was removed, which allows Aliyev to remain in power up to 2025. Monitors, including the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe, were watching the vote.

In 2009, he amended the country's constitution so he could run for an unlimited number of presidential terms, a move criticised by rights advocates.

Aliyev's been lapping up a boom fueled by oil exports, but a slump in global crude prices has weakened the Azeri currency and hit the economy.

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