Azerbaijan Calls for Snap Presidential Election Just Before Russia’s Vote
December 8, 2023 | by b1og.net
Get ready for a political shake-up as Azerbaijan announces a snap presidential election, just weeks before Russia’s own presidential vote. President Ilham Aliyev has ordered the Central Election Commission to prepare for the early election on February 7, despite the next scheduled election not being due until 2025. While the exact reason behind the surprise decision remains unclear, analysts speculate that Aliyev aims to capitalize on his recent surge in popularity following Azerbaijan’s control of the Karabakh region. Some experts argue that the timing could be a strategic move to minimize Russia’s potential influence on the campaign, as the country is likely to be preoccupied with its own election in March. With the recent military victory and an apparent lack of political contenders, Aliyev has a strong chance of securing a resounding victory and further consolidating his power.
Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, has recently ordered the Central Election Commission to prepare for an early presidential election on February 7. This decision comes shortly before Russia’s presidential election on March 17. The next presidential election in Azerbaijan was originally scheduled for 2025. President Aliyev’s popularity in the country has been on the rise following the government’s successful control of the Karabakh region after a lightning operation against ethnic Armenian forces.
II. Call for Snap Presidential Election
A. President Ilham Aliyev’s order
President Aliyev’s order for an early presidential election was published on the presidential website. However, it did not provide any explanation for why he called for the snap election. The decision came as a surprise since the next election was not scheduled to take place until 2025.
B. Timing of the vote
Some analysts speculate that the timing of the snap election is strategic. It is believed that President Aliyev wants to take advantage of his recent surge in popularity, which was boosted by the government’s successful control of the Karabakh region. Additionally, by holding the election while Russia is occupied with its own presidential election, President Aliyev may be aiming to minimize any potential influence from Russia on the campaign.
C. Popular support for Aliyev
During a military parade in Khankendi, the capital of the Karabakh region, President Aliyev addressed the spectators, stating that the Azerbaijani people had shown the strength, determination, and indomitable spirit of their nation. This display of strength and victory in the Karabakh conflict has contributed to a surge in popular support for President Aliyev.
III. Reasons for Early Election
A. Recent control of Karabakh region
The recent lightning operation carried out by Azerbaijan led to the government gaining full control of the Karabakh region. This military success has significantly boosted President Aliyev’s popularity in the country.
B. Burst in popularity
President Aliyev’s popularity has experienced a surge following the government’s success in the Karabakh conflict. The display of strength and victory has resonated with the Azerbaijani people, leading to increased support for the president.
C. Minimizing Russian influence
By holding the snap election while Russia is occupied with its own presidential election, President Aliyev may be attempting to minimize any potential influence from Russia. This strategic move could ensure that the election remains focused on domestic issues and concerns, rather than having external powers play a significant role.
IV. The Karabakh Conflict
A. Capture of Khankendi
Khankendi, also known as Stepanakert to Armenians, was the headquarters of the self-declared separatist government in the Karabakh region. In 2020, Azerbaijani forces successfully regained control over parts of the region, including Khankendi, following a six-week war.
B. Regaining control of the region
After the six-week war, Azerbaijan succeeded in regaining control of the Karabakh region and a significant surrounding territory. This military success played a crucial role in boosting President Aliyev’s popularity among the Azerbaijani people.
C. Russian peacekeeping forces
Following the end of the war, a Russia-brokered truce was established. As part of the truce, Russian peacekeeping forces were deployed to the region. Their main role is to ensure open transit along a road connecting Khankendi with Armenia.
D. Blockading the road
Azerbaijan decided to block the road connecting Khankendi with Armenia, leading to severe food and medicine shortages in the Armenian-held area. This move aimed to exercise control and assert dominance over the region.
E. Blitz and displacement of ethnic Armenians
In September, Azerbaijan launched a blitz that forced the separatist forces in the Karabakh region to disband. This offensive resulted in the displacement of over 100,000 ethnic Armenians from the region. As a result, the city of Khankendi was nearly deserted and came under the control of Azerbaijan.
V. Russia’s Presidential Election
A. Date of the election
Russian lawmakers have set the date for their country’s presidential election for March 17. This election will take place shortly after Azerbaijan’s snap election on February 7.
B. Russia’s delicate balancing act
Russia is involved in a delicate balancing act as it maintains warm ties with Azerbaijan while also acting as the main ally and sponsor of Armenia. This delicate balance may influence Russia’s approach to the upcoming presidential election in Azerbaijan.
C. Lack of time for Azerbaijan
With the presidential campaign in Russia taking up significant attention and resources, there may be limited time for Russia to actively interfere or influence the affairs of Azerbaijan. President Aliyev’s decision to hold the snap election close to the Russian election may be a calculated move to minimize any potential interference.
VI. Aliyev’s Chance for Victory
A. Unconditional victory
President Aliyev’s success in the Karabakh conflict has granted him the opportunity for an unconditional victory in the upcoming presidential election. His popularity and perceived strength among the Azerbaijani people make him a strong candidate.
B. Lack of competition
Currently, there is no viable opposition candidate who can compete with President Aliyev on the political arena. This lack of competition further strengthens President Aliyev’s chances for victory.
C. Allegations of rigging
Despite President Aliyev’s strong position, the opposition in Azerbaijan has raised concerns about the potential for election rigging. The opposition believes that an early election without public debate indicates a repressive atmosphere where authorities may be afraid of political competition.
VII. Opposition’s Claims
A. Allegations of rigged election
The opposition in Azerbaijan has raised allegations of a rigged election. They assert that the government’s decision to hold an early election without public debate is a clear indication that the authorities fear political competition.
B. Lack of public debate
The opposition criticizes the lack of public debate surrounding the snap election. They argue that this lack of open discussion limits the transparency and fairness of the electoral process.
C. Repressive atmosphere
The opposition also highlights the repressive atmosphere in which the election is taking place. They argue that the authorities’ fear of political competition is indicative of a larger issue of limited political freedoms in Azerbaijan.
President Ilham Aliyev’s decision to call for a snap presidential election in Azerbaijan has sparked both support and criticism. The recent success in the Karabakh conflict and the surge in President Aliyev’s popularity have played a significant role in his decision. By holding the election close to Russia’s presidential election, President Aliyev may aim to minimize any potential influence from Russia. However, the opposition has raised concerns about a rigged election and the lack of public debate in a repressive atmosphere. The upcoming snap presidential election in Azerbaijan will undoubtedly shape the country’s political landscape for years to come.