BAKU (Associated Press)—Azerbaijan’s president won a third five-year term by a landslide in Wednesday’s vote, according to an exit poll, extending decades of dynastic rule in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation allied with the West.
The poll, which was conducted by the independent Prognosis polling company, showed Ilham Aliyev taking nearly 84 percent of the vote. The poll of 40,500 voters had a margin of error of less than 1 percentage point.
The main opposition candidate, historian Jamil Hasanli, is trailing behind with about 8 percent, followed by eight other contenders.
Hasanli, speaking to reporters earlier in the day, said that his supporters had recorded numerous vote violations.
“We have registered cases of ballot stuffing at a number of polling stations,” he said. “Regrettably, many government officials are involved in falsification, becoming accomplices of a grave crime.”
International rights groups have accused Aliyev of pressuring and harassing government critics, leaving them little breathing space to campaign.
Aliyev has ruled the ex-Soviet nation of 9 million since 2003, succeeding his father, Heidar Aliyev, who had been at the helm for most of the previous three decades, first as Azerbaijan’s Communist Party boss during the Soviet times and then as its president.
The Azerbaijani leader has shown little tolerance for dissent and extended his rule through elections criticized by Western observers. At the same time, he has firmly allied the Shia Muslim nation with the West, helping secure its energy and security interests and offset Russia’s influence in the strategic Caspian region.
Under Aliyev, Azerbaijan has basked in oil riches that have more than tripled its gross domestic product and helped bolster his popularity. The State Oil Fund that accumulates oil revenues held $34 billion as of the start of the year.