Campaigning for the presidential election has officially begun in Azerbaijan, with the seven registered candidates given 28 days to promote their programs before the October 15 election.
Incumbent Ilham Aliyev is considered the prohibitive favorite, says Khadija Ismayilova
, the Baku bureau chief of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service. She points out that both the state-owned and private media primarily cover his campaign, while offering only negative coverage of the opposition.
The main opposition bloc, Azadliq, is boycotting the vote because of what it says are election laws that favor the ruling party. It has called for the implementation of reforms
suggested by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe to abolish the ruling party's control of the election commissions.
The ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party has dismissed the opposition's complaints, and on September 17 held an election rally in a remote stadium on the outskirts of Baku to counter opposition claims that it is forced to hold its own rallies in such locations.
But RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service has reported that local schoolteachers and other public-sector workers were ordered to attend the rally, or face dismissal.
Ilham Aliyev was elected to replace his late father Heydar as president in 2005, in a vote judged by international observers as failing to meet democratic standards.