Azerbaijan releases election results...before election

Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 | 4:09 AM ET
Laski Diffusion - Wojtek Laski/Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev was elected to serve a third term on Wednesday evening but voting was marred by local media reports that suggested the results were released even before the polls opened.

With counting soon to be completed, election officials said last night that Aliyev was one course to receive nearly 85 percent of the votes, with opposition candidate Jamil Hasanly receiving 5 percent.

However, 24 hours beforehand, local media outlet Meydan TV reported that the results were accidentally pre-announced by the Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan using a new mobile phone application that the organization has introduced.

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Users that downloaded this app were told on Tuesday - the day before the polls opened- that Ilham Aliyev had 72.76 percent of the votes and Jamil Hasanly had 7.4 percent, according to Meydan TV.

The media company - which labels itself as an "alternative and independent media channel" - said that there was also information about how many people had voted and the names of the precincts.

The controversy soon spread to the social media site Facebook with Emin Milli, the managing director at Meydan, being accused of editing the screenshot of the phone app himself by Rauf Mardiyev, the chairman of pro government youth movement Ireli.

The purported developer of the app, Vusal Isayev, the manager of digital marketing agency Happy Baku, argued on the social media site that the information released had been test. The Central Election Commission (CEC) later apologized for the incident, according to local media, emphasizing that the information given in the application during the testing had no connection with the elections.

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"Vusal Isayev contacted us and asked us to remove this news. His argument was it was from an old election, it was a test," Milli said on Meydan TV's website.

Milli hit back at the claims saying that the election results prematurely posted couldn't have been from an old election due to the inclusion of opposition candidate Jamil Hasanly who has never previously been involved. After the angry confrontation on Facebook, Isayev promptly deleted his account, according to Milli.

"If you are so confident that it was just a test, just a technical mistake, then why are you deleting all your social media accounts?," Milli said. "So all these questions and all these facts are making us pretty confident that we are dealing here with major scandal in the history of Azerbaijan."

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Milli told CNBC that there is nothing new about rigging elections in a systematic and centralized way for Azerbaijanis. It fits the general pattern and history of last 20-year rule of Aliyev regime, he said.

'No serious irregularities'

The oil-producing ex-Soviet state - home to 9 million people - has had its fair share of controversy with elections. Human Rights Watch have previously said that The Azerbaijani government is engaged in a "deliberate, abusive strategy to limit dissent", adding that a clampdown on freedom of expression, assembly, and association have accelerated in the months preceding to the presidential elections.

However, reports posted on the Azerbaijani Central Election Commission's website from electoral observers suggest that elections were held in line with international standards.

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At a debriefing press conference, the CEC quoted officials from the Czech Republic and Germany as saying it was well organized with no serious irregularities, acts of violence or human rights violations.

"We note high voter turnout and express hope that the elections will mark a milestone in strengthening democratic development of Azerbaijan," Czech representatives said, according to the CEC.

By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch; Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81


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