BAKU (Reuters)–Veteran leader Haydar Aliyev won Azerbaijan’s presidential elections on Thursday–but his main challenger accused the 75-year-old leader of fraud and vowed to remove him from power.
Aliyev won 76.1 percent of the vote–outstripping his main rival Etibar Mamedov’s 11.6 percent and the 8.06 percent gained by maverick nationalist Nizami Suleymanov–said the country’s electoral commission–which approved the results by a 20-3 margin with one abstention.
Aliyev–who ran Azerbaijan during Soviet times and recently signed deals worth billions to develop its Caspian Sea oil and gas riches–needed two-thirds of the votes to win outright.
His aides invited diplomats and journalists to his October 18 inauguration ceremony for a second five-year term this week–before the results were announced.
Mamedov accused Aliyev of usurping power as soon as the results were announced. The poll was also criticized by foreign observers for falling short of international standards.
"He (Aliyev) has usurped power. These are falsified results. We don’t recognize them–just as we don’t recognize Aliyev as president. We will remove him from power using legal means. The nation deman’s that he leave office," he told Reuters by telephone. Mamedov’s three representatives on the commission also voted against recognizing the results. His main delegate–Fuad Agayev–said the results had been concocted by Aliyev’s backers–who forged protocols received from territorial and local electoral boards.
Agayev said he and the two other Mamedov delegates were barred from compiling vote totals.
"This is a clear violation of the law," he said.
"We are talking about the trust of the nation here. This is not a hollow notion," Agayev told members of the commission–mostly loyal to Aliyev.
He said commission chairman Jafar Veliyev had refused to accept documen’s detailing instances of fraud.
Several days ago Aliyev claimed he had won 75 percent of the vote. The commission refused to issue any preliminary results for three days.
Mamedov said the president got only 61 percent of the vote "even after falsification," making a second round necessary. Mamedov claims he got 25 percent.
Mamedov–43–who helped lead the former Soviet republic’s drive to independence in 1991–vowed to fight the results in the Constitutional Court–which is manned with Aliyev’s appointees.
Aliyev has dismissed criticism from international observers–who said there were serious irregularities during campaigning–voting and the tabulation of ballots.
The US based National Democratic Institute–a watchdog group–said the irregularities seemed to be in many cases systematic and almost all benefited Aliyev.
Several prominent opposition figures boycotted the poll–predicting Aliyev would falsify the results.