The Aliyev family has controlled Azerbaijan without opposition since 1993 and will reassert their power until at least 2031 this Wednesday in the first presidential elections since the violent takeover of the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh last September. The region, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory but with an Armenian population and a self-proclaimed republic following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, was captured by Baku in the final assault of a long and intermittent war. More than 100,000 Armenians fled the area, and several election polling stations were set up in the deserted streets of their capital – Yankendi for Azerbaijan, Stepanakert for Armenia – where opponents, activists and journalists and their families were persecuted. According to the Central Election Commission, President Ilham Aliyev (Baku, 62 years old) wins the elections with 92.1% of the vote, with 54.4% counted.
Aliyev, who succeeded his father at the top of power in 2003, symbolically cast his vote in Nagorno-Karabakh's largest city, accompanied by his wife, Azerbaijan's first vice president Mehriban Aliyeva. Her husband won 86.02% of the vote in the 2018 presidential election and the president, as expected, secured a fifth consecutive term in office this Wednesday in early elections in which the six opposing candidates were politicians close to power They only praised their leader. In one of the election debates – which Alíyev did not take part in – one of the candidates, Zahid Oruj, directly urged viewers to vote for the incumbent president.
The two largest opposition parties, Musavat and the Azerbaijan Popular Front, have withdrawn from participation due to the systematic persecution of critics. According to them, there are about 200 political prisoners in the country's prisons, and the Popular Front of Azerbaijan called on the population not to vote. “We have taken the decision to boycott the elections. There are no normal conditions for free action by opposition formations. We will not take part in this farce,” Ali Karimli said at his party’s extraordinary congress last December.
“The Azerbaijani authorities have intensified their repression against peaceful dissent since November with the arrest of more than 13 opponents, journalists and a human rights activist,” denounced Natalya Nozadze, Amnesty International researcher in the South Caucasus. “After arresting government critics, the executive branch began persecuting their relatives and friends,” he said in a statement.
The activist points out that the authorities have frozen the income and bank accounts of the parents of several detained journalists from Abzas and Channel 13: “Ofelia Maharramova, the mother of the editor-in-chief of Abzas, cannot afford the medication she needs because “His pensions – and disability benefits have been frozen.”
Aliyev left the opposition no room for maneuver by unexpectedly bringing forward these elections two months ago, since they were scheduled for April 2025. A total of 6,537 polling stations were opened, 26 of them in Nagorno-Karabakh, and 6.5 million citizens called for elections in which there were no independent international observers.
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The president vetoed the mission of the Council of Europe, whose Parliamentary Assembly withdrew Baku's credentials on January 25 because he had “failed to fulfill the important commitments he signed from the time he took office until Aliyev came to power.” The organization accused Baku of committing “ethnic cleansing” in Nagorno-Karabakh last fall by “resuming the war and leading to the flight of the entire Armenian population” from the region; He also denounced “a number of examples of lack of cooperation with the Council”, including the fact that his rapporteurs were not allowed to “meet with persons detained on allegedly politically motivated charges” or to observe them elections were allowed.
Aliyev then threatened to leave the Council of Europe permanently “given the intolerable atmosphere of racism, anti-Azerbaijani and Islamophobia in the assembly.”
Allegations of human rights violations did not stop the European Union from intensifying its relations with Azerbaijan last year. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, visited the country in the summer of 2023, when Baku had already blocked Nagorno-Karabakh for months “to strengthen bilateral relations, including energy cooperation”, i.e. the import of Azerbaijani gas Alternative to Russian.
“Many citizens see these elections, which are taking place for the first time across the country, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region, as an opportunity to express their respect and gratitude to the head of state,” pro-government MP Malajat Ibraguimgyzy told the agency. Russian news agency Tass.
Azerbaijan's ambassador to Russia, Polad Bulbuloglu, told the same agency that his country's elections “could be helpful.” [para Moscú] thanks to the exchange of experiences in organizing electoral processes.”
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