Azerbaijan’s President Set for Easy Re-Election
Baku – Oil-rich Azerbaijan is booming and the wealth is trickling down to its poorest people. It all means that its president doesn’t even need to clamp down too hard to ensure he extends a decades-long dynastic rule in elections this week.
IlhamAliyev appears to be so certain of his popularity that his government has magnanimously eased tight restrictions on the opposition and allowed it to freely convene for rallies in the center of the capital – only to see the events draw tepid crowds of a few thousand. Aliyev hasn’t even really bothered to campaign for Wednesday’s election, confident that the cult of personality that has sprung up around him is sincere.
Aliyev looks and sounds like a Western statesman – sporting immaculately tailored suits and speaking fluent English – but he has in the past 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.
That strategy has translated into fabulous wealth.Under Aliyev, the nation of 9 million has basked in oil riches that have more than tripled its gross domestic product and transformed the once-gritty capital, Baku, into a shining modern city. The State Oil Fund that accumulates oil revenues held $34 billion as of the start of the year.
With his political foes weakened by years of relentless government pressure and bitter infighting, Aliyev is all but certain to roll over the main opposition challenger and eight fringe candidates on Wednesday. (AP)