Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

... And Next Month's Election Results Are ...

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Every evening for the last week our electricity has been on the blink. One minute the lights will dim and the ancient fan in the kitchen will splutter and judder and finally give up, and the next there'll be a surge and everything will jump back into action. It's as though somebody at the power station is twiddling the dials to disrupt the current across the whole of the country.

Coincidentally, this happens every time an opposition candidate is about to make a live broadcast on television. Azerbaijan has a presidential election next month, and campaigning has begun in earnest.

I like an election in a former Soviet republic. I've covered quite a few. There was the one in Bashkortostan (in Russia), where the only man running against the powerful president was a minor minister in his own administration who told everyone to vote for the incumbent.

Then there was Kyrgyzstan, where the main opposition candidate was thrown into prison and everyone else made to sit a tricky exam on the Kyrgyz language. The president -- who speaks far better Russian than Kyrgyz, having spent most of his life in Moscow -- passed with flying colors, while the others barely scraped through.

And there was the recent poll in Armenia, where thousands of angry demonstrators took to the streets and threatened to storm the president's home unless he conceded defeat. International observers also cried foul, but Robert Kocharyan claimed a landslide victory and held onto his seat.

But the presidential race in Azerbaijan is shaping up to knock these for six. The 80-year-old head of state, Heidar Aliyev, is currently in a hospital in the United States after he collapsed earlier this year.

He may not be here in person, but you can't move without seeing his face on every billboard, bus back and shop window in the capital. He looks 30 years younger -- driving tractors and kissing children, sometimes both at once. It's amazing what photographers can do these days.

Opposition candidates' posters are thin on the ground. Campaign managers have issued step ladders to their staff so that they can paste above the reach of police, who rip them down. But there isn't much wall space left now that Ilham Aliyev's pictures have gone up -- did I mention that the president's son is running in the election, too?

Meanwhile, a journalist has reported finding a piece of paper at the Central Election Commission which already had the results of next month's poll: Heidar Aliyev is to step aside, his son will win 60 percent of the vote, and everyone else will get less than 5 percent. You heard it here first.

Chloe Arnold is a freelance journalist based in Baku, Azerbaijan.