The election was boycotted by major opposition parties that accused Ilham Aliyev of authoritarian rule and suppressing political dissent.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev casts his vote during the presidential election in Baku, Azerbaijan, April 11, 2018.
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev casts his vote during the presidential election in Baku, Azerbaijan, April 11, 2018. (Reuters)

Azerbaijan strongman Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday secured a fourth consecutive term in a snap election boycotted by the main opposition parties, near-complete results showed.

An Aliyev victory was widely seen as a foregone conclusion with the Caspian state's downtrodden opposition unable to mount a serious challenge to his authoritarian rule.

Aliyev's position has been boosted in recent years by the steady influx of petrodollars into his government's coffers.

TRT World ' Andrew Hopkins reports from the capital, Baku.

In power for 15 years, Aliyev received 86 percent of the vote, with 94 percent of votes counted, the Central Election Commission said in a statement.

Turnout was 74.5 percent, the statement added.

Claiming victory in the election, Aliyev addressed the nation, thanking Azerbaijanis for "support and trust".

"Citizens of Azerbaijan have voted for security and progress," he said in a televised address.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first foreign leader to congratulate Aliyev on his electoral win, the Azerbaijani presidency said in a statement.

Opposition parties in the Caucasus nation have claimed that the elections are a sham and accused the authorities of preparing to rig the vote.

"All previous elections in Azerbaijan were falsified and held with blatant violations of the electoral law. These elections will be no exception," said the executive secretary of the opposition Republican Alternative Movement, Natig Jafarli.

But authorities rejected the criticism, stating that the vote was free and fair.

"Azerbaijan is on a firm and irreversible path of democratic development. A free, open and transparent environment has been created in Azerbaijan for the presidential elections," the foreign ministry spokesman, Hikmet Hajiyev, told AFP.

"All the candidates enjoy equal rights and opportunities," he added.

Stable economy

Earlier in the day at a polling station in the capital Baku, 38-year-old schoolteacher Elmira Balayeva said she had voted for Aliyev because he was the only candidate capable of steering the country towards economic well-being and political stability.

"There is no alternative to Aliyev. Only thanks to him is Azerbaijan a stable country with a strong economy," she said.

Turnout was 68.7 percent, according to the government-commissioned exit poll, but activists earlier questioned official participation figures.

Aliyev, 56, was first elected in 2003, after the death of his father Heydar Aliyev.

Ilham Aliyev was re-elected in 2008 and 2013 in polls that were denounced by opposition parties as fraudulent.

In 2009, he amended the country's constitution so he could run for an unlimited number of presidential terms, a move criticised by rights advocates.

In 2016, Azerbaijan adopted fresh controversial constitutional amendments, extending the president's term in office from five to seven years.

The changes drew criticism from Council of Europe constitutional law experts as "severely upsetting the balance of powers" and giving the president "unprecedented" authority.

Supporters have praised the Aliyevs for turning a republic into a flourishing energy supplier to Europe.

Some 5.2 million people were registered to vote in polls monitored by international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Source: AFP