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Yearbook 1998

Azerbaijan. According to Countryaah, 75-year-old President Gejdar Alijev was re-elected in October with a large majority for a new five-year term. The election was preceded by violent confrontations between security forces and opposition protesters. Several opposition candidates boycotted the election in protest of newly formed electoral laws intended to favor the incumbent president.

Observers from the European Security Organization OSCE confirmed that the opposition was treated unfairly in the election campaign. In a post-election demonstration, two opposition leaders were abused without police officers present. The regime also severely cuts freedom of the press and a large group of journalists hunger strikes in protest.

According to a Human Rights Watch report during the year, human rights abuses have increased in Azerbaijan. But in February, Parliament decided to abolish the death penalty, a step in the quest for membership in the Council of Europe. In March, President Alijev appointed Tofiq Zulfigarov as new Foreign Minister. The representative Gasan Gasanov had then been dismissed, accused of abuses by the state's funds.

Azerbaijan signed extensive contracts with a number of foreign energy companies during the year. British and Japanese, on oil and gas extraction in the Caspian Sea. But at the same time, an international consortium withdrew after failing to find oil in sufficient quantities. Falling oil prices also contributed. A decision on a new pipeline for oil supplies from the Caspian Sea to the west was postponed indefinitely.

1998 Azerbaijan

Nagorno-Karabakh Population

Following the war on Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, approximately 95 percent of the area's residents are estimated to be ethnic Armenians. Most Azeri living in the enclave fled during the war. Many of them are still living as refugees in Azerbaijan.

According to the last census before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh, then an autonomous territory of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, had 189,000 inhabitants. Of these, 76 percent were ethnic Armenians and 21.5 percent were Azeri (see also Armenia: Population and Languages and Azerbaijan: Population and Languages). Many of the Azeri lived in the city of Şuşa (Shushi in Armenian), today an almost abandoned ghost town. When the war ended with a ceasefire in 1994 (see History and current politics), almost all Azeri had fled Armenian-occupied territories both in Nagorno-Karabakh and around. Nagorno-Karabach now has about 145,000 inhabitants, according to an estimate in 2011.

Most Karabakhs belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the oldest national church in the world (see Armenia: Religion). Freedom of religion is limited. A law from 2009 prohibits unregistered groups from engaging in religious work, and it became more difficult for minority communities to register.

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