BAKU, Azerbaijan, October 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has won re-election to his third term of office, garnering a share of the vote almost identical to the results of exit polls and a first ever national approval survey taken a month before the election.
Early Thursday, the Central Election Commission reported that Aliyev's vote total was 84.6 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting. Of his nine other challengers, Jamil Hasanli led with 5.44 percent of the vote, and Igbal Aghazade, the runner-up in the 2008 presidential elections, took third place with 2.34 percent of the vote.
The results closely matched the exit polling in this oil-rich nation on the Caspian Sea. According to a first-of-its-kind exit poll conducted nationally and announced shortly after the polls closed, incumbent President Aliyev was projected to have won with 83.7 percent of the vote.
The exit poll, conducted by respected American polling firm Arthur J. Finkelstein and Associates, covered the breadth of Azerbaijan and roughly 15 percent of all polling stations, the largest such effort in Azerbaijan's two decades of independence.
George Birnbaum, a senior partner of the firm, described the process as "of the highest standard," and noted that his firm had performed over 60,000 face-to-face interviews at over 835 polling stations across the country.
Other exit polls with smaller scopes showed similar results, with projected vote totals for Aliyev between 84 and 88 percent.
The exit poll results and final vote totals track a pre-election survey by Arthur J, Finkelstein and Associates of 1,000 Azerbaijanis from across the country, which showed Aliyev registering an 86 percent approval rating. His high approval numbers were based on his strong showing on the economy, with average growth rates in the double-digits, and security issues, especially his record on terrorism and his handling of the continuing Armenian occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and other Azerbaijani provinces.
Aliyev benefited not only from his own popularity, but from a fractured field, which featured nine other candidates for the presidency. Hasanli was the consensus choice of representatives of the two largest opposition parties, but he was unable to unify the smaller opposition parties and independents into a single electoral force.
SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor