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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
Azerbaijan poll campaign ends
Pro-Aliyev rally
Aliyev supporters dressed in the colours of the national flag
Campaigning is drawing to a close ahead of Wednesday's presidential election in Azerbaijan.

Ilham Aliyev, son of the outgoing president and favourite to win, ended his campaign with a 40,000-strong rally in a stadium in the capital, Baku.

Mr Aliyev said if elected he would continue his father's policies, and dismissed allegations of fraud.

The BBC's Chloe Arnold in Baku says observers have previously criticised violence and intimidation at elections.

And there are concerns that Wednesday's vote will also fall well short of international standards.

Opposition leaders have accused the ruling party of trying to create an Aliyev dynasty, and say they will stage mass rallies on Thursday if they see evidence of ballot rigging.

Business as usual

Campaigning officially ends at 0800 local time on Tuesday (0300 GMT).

I hope you will make the right decision and vote for me as I am the only one who will pursue Aliyev's chosen path
Ilham Aliyev
There are eight candidates for the job, but Mr Aliyev is expected to be backed by a large majority of voters.

His father President Heydar Aliyev, who is ill in hospital in the United States, was also a candidate but withdrew from the race on 2 October.

In a lavish show performed by traditional dancers and rap artists, Ilham Aliyev praised his father's achievements and said he would continue his policies.

"I hope you will make the right decision and vote for me as I am the only one who will pursue Aliyev's chosen path," he told the crowd, standing in front of a huge poster of his father.

However, opposition leader Isa Gambar said Azerbaijan was tired of the Aliyev clan.

"Our victory is clear," he said on Sunday. "It is clear to everyone that the people of Azerbaijan do not want to follow the path of Heydar Aliyev, the path of corruption."

Groomed

Ilham Aliyev in a March 12, 2001 file photo
Ilham Aliyev has been groomed for leadership in recent years
The 80-year-old president, a former KGB chief who has run the republic on and off for more than 30 years, appointed his son prime minister on 4 August.

Speculation that he would try to pass the presidency on to Ilham has been rife since he collapsed during a televised speech in April.

In recent years Mr Aliyev junior has been groomed for leadership, but many analysts doubt that he has the ruthlessness or the appetite for power required to fill his father's shoes.

Our correspondent says he has a reputation as a playboy and a gambler.

Some predict he will take on the role of an interim leader, ensuring a smooth and peaceful transition from his father's rule - and then handing over power to someone else.


SEE ALSO:
Azeri leader withdraws from poll
02 Oct 03  |  Europe
Azerbaijan's 'royal' succession
04 Aug 03  |  Europe
Azeri leader seeks US treatment
07 Aug 03  |  Europe
Azeri leader's son chosen as PM
04 Aug 03  |  Europe
Azeri leader back at work
22 Apr 03  |  Europe
Profile: Heydar Aliyev
21 Apr 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Azerbaijan
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Azerbaijan
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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