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US 'disturbed' by flaws in Azerbaijan polls

Azerbaijani election officials empty ballot boxes at a polling station in Baku on October 9, 2013
Azerbaijani election officials empty ballot boxes at a polling station in Baku on October 9, 2013

The United States said Thursday it was "disturbed" that elections in Azerbaijan failed to meet international norms after President Ilham Aliyev cruised to a third term.

"We repeatedly called on the government of Azerbaijan to ensure a free and fair electoral process, and we regret that this election fell short of international standards," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Final results saw Aliyev take 84.6 percent at Wednesday's vote in the tightly-managed ex-Soviet state, while his main opponent Jamil Hasanli lagged on 5.5 percent in second place, the electoral commission said.

US embassy staff in Baku concurred with findings by observers from the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, which noted "serious problems... such as ballot stuffing and irregularities with vote counting."

"We are disturbed by these shortcomings in the process," Harf told reporters.

The United States was now calling on the Azerbaijan authorities "to respect the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association and speech" as well as urging "restraint and avoidance of violence."

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