In Azerbaijan, voters called to the polls for a vote without suspense

The Azerbaijanis began to vote, Wednesday February 7, for a presidential election which should once again crown Ilham Aliev, freshly crowned by his military success in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the absence of any opposition

In Azerbaijan, voters called to the polls for a vote without suspense

The Azerbaijanis began to vote, Wednesday February 7, for a presidential election which should once again crown Ilham Aliev, freshly crowned by his military success in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the absence of any opposition. Ilham Aliev and his family slipped their ballots into the ballot box in Khankendi, the main city of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani presidency announced in a press release.

The president, who inherited power when his father died in 2003, holds the reins of this Caucasian oil country so firmly that no surprises are possible. Voters have the choice between seven candidates, including Ilham Aliev. But none of the other figures represent an alternative and “all have supported the president in the recent past,” notes the OSCE in a report. During the campaign, some even praised the 62-year-old leader who “kept all his promises”.

As during the previous presidential election in 2018, the real opposition parties, crushed by years of repression, are boycotting this election, which is described as a “farce”. Ilham Aliev is riding high on his military victory against the Armenian separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh in September, putting an end to three decades of secessionism, marked by two wars.

“Worst of the worst.”

In January, Ilham Aliev explained that he had called this early election, initially scheduled for 2025, to celebrate the start of a “new era”. Authorities have insisted on the “historic” nature of the vote, which will be held in Nagorno-Karabakh for the first time since the early 1990s. The territory has, however, been emptied of its Armenian population.

Preliminary results are expected a few hours after the close of business at 4 p.m. (Paris time). Ilham Aliev collects overwhelming scores: 86% of the votes in 2018 and even nearly 89% in 2008, his record. These elections are still denounced by international observers. In 2018, those of the OSCE denounced “serious irregularities”.

Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic of some 10 million inhabitants, is also accustomed to the bottom places in the rankings of human rights groups. The American democracy promotion organization Freedom House ranks it among the “worst of the worst” in terms of civil liberties.

NGOs denounce the repression of the opposition, torture in prisons and arbitrary arrests, accusations rejected by the authorities. In recent months, around ten journalists have been arrested in connection with legal cases that their supporters consider to be fabricated. Ilham Aliev is also accused of taking advantage of the country's hydrocarbon wealth to enrich his clan, which he disputes. He named his wife, Mehriban Alieva, vice-president and his son could well succeed him one day.

The president has already given indications on what he intends to do with his fifth term. He explained in January that the country must remain “very vigilant” against threats, even if the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh chapter is now behind it. He assures that he does not want a new war with Armenia, even if the peace negotiations between the two neighbors drag on and Yerevan is worried about the ambitions of this much richer and better armed neighbor.