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Azerbaijan's Aliyev Set to Cement Power in Widely Boycotted Vote

FILE - President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev arrives for a meeting on the 5th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership at the Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic.

Polls closed Sunday in Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections boycotted by the mainstream opposition and widely expected to cement strongman President Ilham Aliyev's grip on power in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation.

The opposition and international rights groups have questioned the vote's legitimacy, accusing the government of jailing political opponents on trumped-up charges and limiting parties' ability to campaign.

Aliyev's Yeni (New) Azerbaijan, which dominates the legislature, had vowed a free and fair vote. A victory would further secure Aliyev's grip on power since taking over after his father Heydar Aliyev's death in 2003.

Opinion surveys have indicated a strong lead for Yeni Azerbaijan, the results reflecting a rise of incomes in the nation of 9 million under Aliyev's watch, thanks mainly to the country's oil wealth.

But none of the elections held in Azerbaijan since Aliyev came to power in 2003 has been recognized as free and fair by international observers.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not send a team to monitor the election due to restrictions imposed by the government.

The tightly controlled Caucasus nation's leading opposition parties, including the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), the Musavat party, and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, all boycotted the poll.

More than 700 candidates from 13 parties and one bloc were standing for the 125-seat, single-house parliament to be elected for a five-year term.