The vote count will not be complete for many days, but President Haidar Aliev has apparently won election to a new five-year term. Although the best-known opposition figures boycotted the campaign, the election was still a step toward democracy in a country that has never known it…. Aliev was the head of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan in the Soviet era. He returned to power in 1993, bringing stability after two years of turmoil and misrule. He runs the country in the same authoritarian manner as he did in Soviet times, but now with a pro-Western rather than pro-Russian orientation. Western companies have promised to invest some US$40 billion in the still wretchedly poor Turkish-speaking nation, both to develop Azerbaijan’s own oil resources in the Caspian seabed and to develop the port of Baku and pipeline routes to carry oil and gas from Central Asia to Western markets…. Five candidates did challenge Aliev, gaining recognition through television exposure and learning how to compete. Given the president’s age–he is 75–they may have a chance to put that knowledge to use before the next scheduled election in 2003.

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