Polls open in presidential vote in Azerbaijan

Associated Press
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev leaves a polling station in Baku, Azerbaijan, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013. 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 on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Azerbaijan's president looked to extend a political dynasty as the nation voted Wednesday, while an opposition candidate claimed the election was rigged.

The presidential race in the former Soviet republic was dominated by Ilham Aliyev, whose low-key campaign for a third term reflected his confidence that he will roll over the main opposition challenger and eight fringe candidates.

The opposition's hopes of challenging Aliyev suffered a humiliating setback when election officials refused to register its original candidate because he had dual Russian and Azerbaijani citizenship, something explicitly banned by the constitution.

International rights groups have accused Aliyev of pressuring and harassing government critics, leaving them little breathing space to campaign.

Aliyev's main opponent Camil Hasali claimed that his election observers have witnessed widespread vote rigging at polling stations.

"Lamentably, many officials are taking part in vote rigging, thus abetting a grave state crime," he said.

Under Aliyev, the nation of 9 million has basked in oil riches that have more than tripled its gross domestic product. Aliyev inherited the presidency from his father, Geidar Aliyev, who had ruled Azerbaijan first as the Communist Party boss and then as a post-Soviet president for the greater part of three decades.

The son has presented himself as a guarantor of stability, an image with broad appeal in a nation where painful memories are still fresh of the turmoil that accompanied the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

Tatyana Golikova, a Baku resident and Aliyev support said she expects "the continuation of the right policies of our President Ilham Aliyev."

Results were expected to be announced Thursday.

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Sophiko Megrelidze contributed to this report.

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