Official Mobile App Releases Azerbaijani Vote Results -- Before the Election
As Azerbaijanis head to the polls to choose a new president, officials in Baku had hoped to project a tech-savvy image by launching a new mobile-phone application that allows voters to keep track of the election process.
But the initiative seems to have backlashed, with the application releasing what appears to be the final results -- which gave incumbent President Ilham Aliyev a landslide victory -- one day before the October 9 election. The application also provided turnout figures for different districts.
Although the suspicious tally was quickly removed, an eagle-eyed opposition television channel was able to capture a screenshot and post it online.
Emin Milli, the director of Meydan TV and a leading opposition figure, told RFE/RL: "Our social-media manager checked this application on his phone and discovered one section, which should have been closed but was open, showing the election results. He did a screenshot and posted it on our Meydan.tv. It went viral, we got 2,000 'likes' within a couple of minutes."
Milli believes the incident shines a light on the rampant election rigging that he and other opposition leaders say have enabled the iron-fisted Aliyev to remain in power since 2003.
The opposition said the October 9 vote was no exception and accused the authorities of "mass falsifications," citing instances of so-called "carousel voting" (shuttling the same voters from one polling station to another) and ballot-box stuffing.
Not Happy In Baku
Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission has dismissed the mishap with its mobile application, which gave Aliyev almost 73 percent of the vote and 7.4 percent to united opposition candidate Camil Hasanli, as a mere technical glitch.
"The company that produced the application was running tests. The new app became available on the Central Election Commission's server at 7 a.m. on Wednesday. We consider such reports a provocation and believe that Meydan TV is seeking to cast a shadow over our democratic elections," Central Election Commission spokesman Azer Sariyev told RFE/RL.
Later in the day, the commission nonetheless issued an apology, saying it "deeply regrets" what it described as a "misunderstanding."
The company that developed the application, a digital marketing agency named Happy Baku, insists that it accidentally made a test version available for download ahead of the poll.
Happy Baku manager Vusal Isayev told Meydan TV that the mock results in fact contained data from the last presidential election -- a claim that has raised eyebrows, considering the fact that Hasanli did not run in the 2008 election.
According to Milli, Isayev unsuccessfully sought to persuade Meydan TV to remove its report. Milli said Isayev had since shut down all his social-media accounts.
"Shortly after this, he closed his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. If he is so confident that this was just a testing mistake, then why is he deleting all his accounts?" Milli said. "He also shut down his account on Twitter and on Odnoklassniki. He closed all his accounts on social networks."
Whatever went wrong with the application, Happy Baku's electoral projections may actually prove close to the mark.
Just like his father, Heydar Aliyev, in his time, Ilham Aliyev has managed to sail through the polls for the past decade, and this year's vote is unlikely to be any different. According to various exit polls, Aliyev has won this year's election with more than 80 percent of the vote.
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.