Azerbaijan's ruling party appears to have won a clear victory in parliamentary polls boycotted by the mainstream opposition, cementing President Ilham Aliyev's grip on power in the country.

The ruling Yeni (New) Azerbaijan party secured enough seats for a majority in the 125-seat parliament, according to the exit poll conducted by the local ELS Independent Research Centre on Sunday.

Ali Akhmedov, deputy prime minister and a top party leader, said his party was confident of victory and "expects to win at least 70 seats in the parliament."

In Azerbaijian, prod-democracy advocates face major challenges

Some members of the opposition have staged a boycott over Sunday's election, accusing the government of jailing amost all of its opponents.

International rights groups have also accused Azerbaijani authorities of limiting free speech.

The leading opposition party, Musavat, announced it was pulling out just four days before the vote.

Yeni Azerbaijan had vowed the election would be flawless.

"The elections are being held in a fully transparent and democratic atmosphere," Aliyev's top aide, Ali Gasanov, told AFP.

Final voter turnout was 55.7 percent, said the Central Election Commission.

Crackdown on opposition

The main trans-Atlantic security and rights group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has refused to monitor the vote after Azerbaijan demanded that it sharply cut the number of observers.

International observers have not recognised any of the elections held in Azerbaijan since Aliyev came in power in 2003 as free and fair.

Amnesty International has protested what it described as "sustained and severe attack" on the freedom of expression in Azerbaijan in the run-up to the parliamentary election.

It said there are at least 20 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan who have been convicted on trumped-up charges ranging from fraud to treason.

Azerbaijani authorities have dismissed such criticism as unfounded.

Source: Agencies