Azerbaijan Ruling Party Wins Majority In Parliament Vote Marred By Reports Of Irregularities

BAKU — Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has gained 64 of 125 seats in the single-chamber parliament, according to early results from snap general polls.

Central Election Commission (CEC) head Mazahir Panahov announced the partial results early on February 10 after 87 percent of electoral precincts declared returns.

YAP had 65 seats in the outgoing parliament, the Milli Majlis.

Nominally independent candidates, most of whom support YAP’s policies, took almost all the rest of the seats in the February 9 elections.

Reports of irregularities included multiple voting, interrupted video feeds at polling stations, and hindrance or abuse of independent observers.

The CEC put the turnout at 47.81 percent, nearly eight percentage points less than in the previous parliamentary elections.

The ballot was boycotted by some opposition parties in protest over limitations on access to media and the right to peaceably assemble.

Aliyev’s YAP declared victory during the early morning hours of February 10. A statement on the party’s website said: “Exit poll results make us think that New Azerbaijan got a majority of votes.”

Since Azerbaijan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, its elections have repeatedly been deemed as falling short of democratic standards by international observers.

Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since shortly before his father’s death 17 years ago, called the election in December, nine months before it was formally due. YAP said the composition of the legislature needed to be changed in order to carry out Aliyev’s “reform” program.

An exit poll conducted by the U.S.-based firm Arthur J. Finkelstein & Associates suggested YAP had won a total of 69 seats.

The only opposition candidate expected to make it into the next parliament is Erkin Gadirli of the Republican Alternative Civic Movement (REAL), according to the exit poll.

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will present their preliminary conclusions later in the day.

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