Presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan on 15 October 2003. As expected, Ilham Aliyev, son of the outgoing president, Heydar Aliyev, was easily elected in an election which international observers held not to be free or fair.
Human Rights Watch claimed that "the government has heavily intervened in the campaigning process in favor of Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev, son of current President Heydar Aliyev. The government has stacked the Central Election Commission and local election commission with its supporters, and banned local non-governmental organizations from monitoring the vote. As the elections draw nearer, government officials have openly sided with the campaign of Ilham Aliyev, constantly obstructing opposition rallies and attempting to limit public participation in opposition events. In some cases, local officials have closed all the roads into town during opposition rallies, or have extended working and school hours - on one occasion, even declaring a Sunday work day - to prevent participation in opposition rallies."
The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe provided 188 election observers. The mission, requested by the United States government, formed part of a larger group of observers monitoring under the auspices of the OSCE. The IDEE observers observed more than 1,000 voting precincts and Constituency Election Centers where votes were tabulated, and collectively issued a "Votum Separatum," which expressed their outrage at election fraud, intimidation and political repression they witnessed during their observation mission and their disagreement with the OSCE's mild preliminary report calling the elections "generally well administered."