Photo: Tofik Babayev Agence France-Presse Supporters of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev carry national flags and portraits of the president during a rally in Baku on Wednesday.
Elman Mamedov – Agence France-Presse to Baku
February 7, 2024
- Middle East
The authoritarian president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, in power for two decades and crowned by his military success in Nagorno-Karabakh, was unsurprisingly re-elected on Wednesday for a fifth term, with more than 90 % of votes according to official results.
Mr. Aliyev, 62, who inherited power after the death of his father in 2003, won 92% of the vote in the vote in which the opposition was absent, according to results covering almost all polling stations.
“The people of Azerbaijan have elected Ilham Aliyev as president of the country,” Central Election Commission head Mazakhir Panakhov said at a press conference. Turnout was 67.7%, he added.
Thousands of the president's supporters celebrated the victory Wednesday evening in the streets of the capital, Baku.
Voters had a choice of seven candidates, including Ilham Aliev. But none of the other figures represented an alternative and “all supported the president in the recent past,” noted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Some even, during the campaign, praised Mr. Aliyev who “kept all his promises”.
The real opposition parties, crushed by years of repression, boycotted this election, described as a “farce”, as during the previous presidential election in 2018.
Ilham Aliev is riding high on his military victory against the Armenian separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023, which ended three decades of secessionism marked by two wars.
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The strong man of Baku can therefore boast of having “reunified” his country, a mission he had set for himself.
In a symbolic gesture, President Aliev and his family slipped their ballots into the ballot box in Khankendi, the main city of Nagorno-Karabakh – called Stepanakert by the Armenians.
Azerbaijani polling stations opened there for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, which gave the vote a “historic” character, welcomed the head of the Electoral Commission central.
At a polling station in Baku, the capital, Chatalia Abbassova, a 68-year-old retiree, said she voted for the outgoing president because he “realized our dream, liberated the occupied territories.”
In January, Ilham Aliev explained that he had called this early election, initially scheduled for 2025, to celebrate the start of a “new era” after the successful military operation.
“I know many will vote for Aliyev today, because he liberated Karabakh. I am grateful to him for this, but there are fundamental problems in the country that are still not resolved,” said another resident of Baku, Ismet Baguirov.
The 32-year-old information technology specialist said he decided not to vote, “because there are no alternative candidates” to Mr. Aliyev.
For political analyst Ghia Nodia, there was “no suspense in these elections without the slightest trace of competition.”
Ilham Aliev collects overwhelming scores. He received 86% of the vote in 2018 and nearly 89% in 2008.
These ballots are, however, still denounced by international observers. In 2018, those at the OSCE reported “serious irregularities”.
Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic of some ten 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 succeed him one day.