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
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