BAKU -- Authoritarian leader Ilham Aliyev has been sworn in to a fourth term as president of Azerbaijan after a landslide victory in an election boycotted by opponents and criticized by international observers.
The inauguration on April 18 marks the start of a seven-year term for Aliyev, 56, who has been president of the oil-producing South Caucasus country since shortly before the death of his long-ruling father, Heydar Aliyev, in 2003.
The Central Election Commission said last week that Aliyev received 86.1 percent of the vote in an April 11 snap election that was boycotted by the main opposition parties.
International observers said Aliyev's landslide victory was marred by "serious irregularities" and a lack of real competition.
In a report issued on April 12, Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) observers cited “widespread disregard for mandatory procedures, lack of transparency, and numerous serious irregularities, such as ballot-box stuffing."
On February 5, Aliyev announced he was bringing forward the date of the vote from October 17 to April 11, a move denounced by opponents. The government said was necessary to avoid presidential and parliamentary elections clashing in 2025.
The election came amid worsening economic conditions in the country, prompting antigovernment protests.
Aliyev's opponents, Western countries, and international human rights groups say his government has persistently persecuted independent media outlets, journalists, and opposition politicians and activists in the former Soviet republic of about 10 million.