Ilham Aliyev has won Azerbaijan's presidential election with 72.76% of the vote. But there's one catch: the election is Wednesday and the results were released Tuesday. The Central Elections Commission (Markezi Komissiyasi) accidentally released the results when they released a new smart phone app supposedly designed to provide up-to-date election information. According to the app, Jamil Hasanil, the only oppositional candidate to stand, received 7.4% of total vote. The app also stated how many people voted, the names of the different precincts and how many voters voted at various times during the day ... all the day before any of that information could have possibly been collected.
It was widely suspected that this election would be fraudulent. Most commentators on Azerbaijan expected President Aliyev to win re-election handily. Weeks before today's election, one florist told Euroasianet that they were asked to prepare flowers for Aliyev's re-election inauguration ceremony. Azerbaijan's alternative media channel Meydan TV has been circulating the news and reaction from Azeri democratic activists. One activist told them "I'm speechless. Even the façade of a real election in Azerbaijan has been proven a farce."
This is straight out of the Onion:
The news of the alleged fraud will prove to be embarrassing to the United States, as Azerbaijan is a key ally against Iran. Ilham Aliyev has been president of the predominately Shia-Muslim country since 2003. He took over from his father and has been accused by his opponents of wide-spread human rights abuses ... many of which the U.S. is well aware of. Leaked U.S. cables noted that Azerbaijan maintains strong links with Israel, as Azeri authorities crush and abduct anyone who protests against Israel or its policies in the country. Other U.S. cables compared Aliyev to Sonny and Michael Corleone from the Godfather, concluding that the president has two sides to him.
The Michael side was where he showed "pragmatism, restrain and helpfulness towards integration with the West." And the Sonny "side" was marked by imprisoning bloggers and becoming "increasingly authoritarian and hostile to diversity of political views." But beyond expressing concerns over his abuses, the U.S. did very little to prevent it.
Azerbaijan puts the U.S. in a difficult position. It look hypocritical criticizing Iran when close allies of the U.S. are themselves engaged in widespread abuses. Iran held a transparent and relatively free election this year, while Azerbaijan appears to have done the opposite. It remains to be seen what will happen next but beyond outrage, it's unlikely that anyone will challenge the Azeri president. The U.S. government is unlikely to challenge the results either and will remain silent.