A Caspian contradiction

Elections in Azerbaijan have led to the reinstatement of the existing leader Ilham Aliev. It appears though, that the elections were far from fair. It is what you might expect from Azerbaijan. The Economist reports:

One campaign has involved decrees on electoral propriety from Ilham Aliev, Azerbaijan’s president, the open registration of candidates, plans for exit-polling and the release of political prisoners. Beneath these niceties, however, lies another campaign that has alarmed foreign election and human-rights observers. This one features the beating and detention of opposition candidates and their supporters, media bias, and bizarre allegations of a coup plot that followed a mysteriously aborted homecoming by an exiled opposition leader. This election may yet be judged to have been little cleaner than the rigged presidential poll in 2003, when Mr Aliev succeeded his father Heidar, a Soviet-era boss who ran the country again for the last decade of his life.

Some facts on Azerbaijan for general interest:

Azerbaijan has more people (8m), and most are Muslims. It is in a rough neighbourhood: to the north is Dagestan, an anarchic region of Russia; to the south, Iran. It lost a chunk of its territory in a war with Armenia in the 1990s, and the two countries may yet fight another. Above all, it has oil and gas: new pipelines will soon carry both from the Caspian to the Mediterranean. And, like its election, Azerbaijan has two faces. It is a proud, booming nation with a westernised elite and a glamorous capital, Baku; it is also grotesquely corrupt, beset by clan rivalries, its bureaucrats fattening on backhanders while 40% of the country lives in poverty.