|Azeri opposition plans challenge over unfair election||
Opponents of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev said on Thursday they would go to court to challenge his election to a third term, rejecting the result of a vote that international monitors said was seriously flawed.
Aliyev, who succeeded his father a decade ago as leader of the oil-producing former Soviet republic, won a third five-year term with nearly 85 percent of the vote in Wednesday's election.
Standing before a national flag on state television, he thanked Azeris for their support and said he would ensure security in the South Caucasus, where tensions still simmer with neighboring Armenia over a disputed territory.
Opposition candidate Jamal Hasanly said he would seek to challenge the official result in the Constitutional Court, alleging violations including ballot stuffing and multiple voting. "This election was neither free nor fair," he said.
Aliyev, 51, has faced criticism at home and abroad over his treatment of opponents. Media are tightly controlled, protests quashed, and one rights group said a pre-election crackdown had doubled the number of political prisoners.
International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the vote was marred by a 'restrictive media environment' and allegations of intimidation of candidates and voters.
"The limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, and expression, the lack of a level playing field, the allegations of intimidation, all came in the lead up to an election day that our observers found to be seriously flawed," OSCE official Tana de Zulueta said.
US 'disturbed' by flaws in polls
Meanwhile, 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.
"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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