Azerbaijan. According to
Countryaah, 75-year-old President Gejdar Alijev was
re-elected in October with a large majority for a new
five-year term. The election was preceded by violent
confrontations between security forces and opposition
protesters. Several opposition candidates boycotted the
election in protest of newly formed electoral laws intended
to favor the incumbent president.
Observers from the European Security Organization OSCE
confirmed that the opposition was treated unfairly in the
election campaign. In a post-election demonstration, two
opposition leaders were abused without police officers
present. The regime also severely cuts freedom of the press
and a large group of journalists hunger strikes in protest.
According to a Human Rights Watch report during the year,
human rights abuses have increased in Azerbaijan. But in
February, Parliament decided to abolish the death penalty, a
step in the quest for membership in the Council of Europe.
In March, President Alijev appointed Tofiq Zulfigarov as new
Foreign Minister. The representative Gasan Gasanov had then
been dismissed, accused of abuses by the state's funds.
Azerbaijan signed extensive contracts with a number of
foreign energy companies during the year. British and
Japanese, on oil and gas extraction in the Caspian Sea. But
at the same time, an international consortium withdrew after
failing to find oil in sufficient quantities. Falling oil
prices also contributed. A decision on a new pipeline for
oil supplies from the Caspian Sea to the west was postponed