Azerbaijanis are voting on February 7 in a snap election nearly sure to provide incumbent President Ilham Aliyev one other seven-year time period, following his authorities’s swift reclaiming of a area previously managed by ethnic Armenian separatists.
Mr. Aliyev, 62, has been in energy for greater than 20 years, succeeding his father who was Azerbaijan’s Communist boss after which president for a decade when it grew to become impartial after the 1991 Soviet collapse. The subsequent Presidential vote was set for subsequent 12 months, however Aliyev known as an early election shortly after Azerbaijani troops retook the Karabakh area from ethnic Armenian forces who managed it for 3 a long time.
Analysts advised Mr. Aliyev moved the election ahead to capitalize on his burst in recognition following September’s blitz in Karabakh. He will likely be within the limelight in November when Azerbaijan, a rustic which depends closely on revenues from fossil fuels, hosts a U.N. local weather change convention.
Speaking earlier than the polls opened at 0400 GMT, 52-year-old Baku resident Sevda Mirzoyeva stated she’s going to vote for “victorious” Aliyev, who “returned our lands, which were occupied for many years.”
Mr. Aliyev has declared that he wished the election to “mark the beginning of a new era,” through which Azerbaijan has full management over its territory. On Wednesday, he and his spouse solid their ballots in Khankendi, a metropolis that was known as Stepanakert by Armenians when it housed the headquarters of the self-declared separatist authorities.
The area, which had been identified internationally as Nagorno-Karabakh, and enormous swathes of surrounding territory got here underneath full management of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia on the finish of a separatist battle in 1994.
Azerbaijan regained components of it and a lot of the surrounding territory in 2020 in a six-week battle, which ended with a Moscow-brokered truce. In December 2022, Azerbaijan began blockading the street linking the area with Armenia, inflicting meals and gas shortages, after which launched a September blitz that routed separatist forces in simply in the future and compelled them to put down arms.
More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the area after the defeat of separatist forces, leaving it almost abandoned.
When he visited the town in November, Mr. Aliyev stated in a speech at a navy parade marking the victory that “we showed the whole world the strength, determination and indomitable spirit of the Azerbaijani people.”
In Fuzuli, the Azerbaijani metropolis close to Karabakh that was managed by Armenian forces till 2020, AP reporters witnessed a strong turnout with voters lining as much as enter polling stations.
There isn’t any restrict on the variety of phrases Mr. Aliyev can serve, and there’s no actual problem from six different candidates, a few of which have beforehand publicly praised him.
Mr. Aliyev’s time in energy has been marked by the introduction of more and more strict legal guidelines that curb political debate in addition to arrests of opposition figures and impartial journalists — together with within the run-up to the presidential election.
Azerbaijan’s two fundamental opposition events — Musavat and the People’s Front of Azerbaijan — should not participating within the vote, and a few opposition members have alleged that Wednesday’s vote may be rigged.
Musavat chief Arif Hajili instructed The Associated Press that the occasion wouldn’t be taking part within the elections as a result of they don’t seem to be democratic.
“Many journalists and political activists are in jail. There are more than 200 political prisoners. There are serious issues with election law and the election commissions are basically under the authorities’ influence,” Hajili stated.
Ali Karimli, chief of People’s Front of Azerbaijan Party, has stated that calling for an early election with out public debate reveals that the authorities are afraid of political competitors.