Polls open in presidential election in Azerbaijan

Polls open in presidential election in Azerbaijan
An Azeri man casts his ballot at a polling station during a presidential elections in Baku, Azerbaijan, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Voters in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation of Azerbaijan are set to cast ballots in a snap presidential election that is all but certain to extend the rule of the country's long-serving leader by another seven years. (AP Photo/Aziz Karimov)

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Polls have opened in an early presidential election in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

Voting began Wednesday in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation where incumbent Ilham Aliyev is expected to win by a landslide, extending his 15-year-long rule.

The presidential election that had been due in the fall was moved up to April. Officials said the move was made because the country would be busy with various high-profile events in late 2018.

Aliyev has led the country since 2003, when he succeeded his father. Surveys put support for him at over 80 percent.

Since Aliyev won the last election in 2013, Azerbaijan’s Constitution has been amended to extend the presidential term from five to seven years. Aliyev’s critics denounced the 2016 plebiscite as effectively cementing a dynastic rule.