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Azerbaijan: Polls Open In Election To Replace Aliyev

Baku, 15 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The polls are open in Azerbaijan for today's election to choose a successor to long-time leader President Heidar Aliyev (pictured). Aliyev's son, current Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev, is among eight candidates competing to succeed the 80-year-old president, who remains hospitalized in Cleveland in the United States.

Two opposition leaders are seen as the younger Aliyev's main challengers: Isa Gambar of the Equality (Musavat) Party, and Etibar Mamedov of the National Independence Party.

The election has already been criticized by international organizations. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has cited incidents of police violence at opposition campaign rallies, intimidation, and biased media coverage. The OSCE has sent some 600 monitors to observe the election.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said the legitimacy of the election will be questionable no matter how the actual voting is conducted.