Al Jazeera Net correspondent
Baku- Today (February 6), Azerbaijan enters a state of electoral silence on the eve of the start of early presidential elections to be held in the country tomorrow, amid a consensus that current President Ilham Aliyev will win a new term, and even That by a wide margin too. According to local and foreign observers, the margin separated him from the other six candidates.
The elections come amid the highest levels of popularity for Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, and a boycott by opposition parties who say the results are predetermined.
For the first time in the country's history, elections will be held throughout Azerbaijan, including the Karabakh region, and this is its main advantage.
According to the Constitution of Azerbaijan, the candidate who receives half of the votes of the participating voters is considered the winner. In the last elections, Ilham Aliyev received the support of 86.22% of voters, with a participation rate of 74.5%.
Besides Aliyev, the Central Election Commission registered 6 other candidates. The most experienced of them is Kudrat Hasan Guliyev, who has participated in all presidential campaigns since 2003, but received no more than 3% of the votes. The other leading candidate is MP Zahid Aruj. Schaal ran for the position twice and received just over 3% of the vote in the 2018 elections.
Aliyev's supporters, particularly members of the ruling “New Azerbaijan” party, say they consider the current leader to be the country's “eternal president”, describing him as the “liberator of Karabakh” and a sponsor of development, strengthening the economy. Are. And enhancing the country's defense capabilities.
In parallel, it was interesting that the authorities did not care about the reactions and statements by international organizations and Western diplomats questioning the integrity of the elections (before they took place). Baku did not hesitate to take security measures. political and social space from foreign interference, and declared a ban on all USAID activities. The International subsequently expelled two French embassy staff from the country, as it was considered interference in Azerbaijan's internal affairs.
Almost no observer doubts the inevitability of Aliyev winning the elections by a larger margin than the other candidates.
According to Tofik Kasimov, an expert on Azerbaijani affairs, Aliyev established himself as a president who is gaining enormous popularity as a result of his success in achieving solid stability in the economy, whose growth rate is clearly above that in most republics. Higher than the prevailing growth rate. The former Soviet Union, in addition to implementing bold economic projects, created a geopolitical base. For the oil policy of sovereign Azerbaijan.
He said in an interview with Al Jazeera Net that Aliyev has significantly strengthened Azerbaijan's geopolitical presence in the region over the past twenty years, as his reign has become a symbol not only of internal political stability, which, among other things, Also reflected. in the balance and development of Azerbaijan's economic indicators, but it is also an example of how a country can qualitatively increase its international reputation.
According to the opinion of the same speaker, the rest of the candidates face a big problem in convincing citizens about the election programs, which, in any case, are unfulfilled promises in exchange for the concrete achievements achieved by Aliyev during 20 years. Or slogans remain, which are entering it. Election race because he is a popular and strong leader who won the 44-day war. in Karabakh in 2020, and in 2023 they permanently returned the territory that had previously been under Armenian control for nearly 30 years.
Kasimov points out that successes in internal development were also clearly reflected in demographic indicators. According to the World Bank, Azerbaijan's population has increased by millions. Additionally, per capita GDP grew 4.8 times from $884 to $4,222 during the period 2003 to 2020, and officials were able to create more than 1,400,000 stable job opportunities.
The expert says that Aliyev has strengthened the position and image of the Republic of Azerbaijan not only in the South Caucasus region, but also on the world stage. In addition to pursuing a studied foreign economic policy, it has established mutually beneficial bilateral relations with major global and regional powers as well as international organizations to develop international cooperation in the field of energy with relevant parties. Works, including direct neighbors. Regions and European countries.
As for South Caucasus affairs researcher Toral Abbasov, he says that the boycott of political parties that could pose real opposition to the current president in the electoral race will not affect the legitimacy of the election, but will Will favor the ballot boxes that support Aliyev.
He says the interesting question is how many additional votes the current president will get, which will likely be more than at any time during his entire term.
Experts point out here that a number of opposition forces in Azerbaijan issued a joint statement about not recognizing the validity of the elections and refusing to participate in them, which they consider to be submission under the control of electoral committees. The authorities, and subsequent restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, limited it to the greatest extent.
They concluded that the political system in Azerbaijan does not actually face any internal challenges, but rather has demonstrated the ability to resist a range of risks. According to him, this is not due to the state of weakness, polarization and dysfunction that opposition forces are suffering from, but is a result of Aliyev's leadership and administrative qualities.