Mazahir Panahov, the permanent head of the Election Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan, announced that Ilham Aliyev was elected as the president of this oil-rich country for the fifth consecutive time in the early presidential elections on February 7, 2024, with 93 percent of the votes. Regarding the process of this election, its results, and prospects, seven points can be raised here:
First: Four events, including “the signature forgery scandal during the election of Ilham Aliyev as Prime Minister in 2003 at the same time as Heydar Aliyev was hospitalized,” “revocation of the ban that no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice in 2009,” and finally “increasing the term of the presidency from five to seven years in 2016,” and “presidential election candidates campaigning in favor of Aliyev in the recent elections,” all indicate a kind of railroading by the ruling party ” New Azerbaijan Party ” for the permanent continuation of power in the Aliyev family.
Second: The arrest of dozens of Shia activists, the detention of more than 10 journalists before the elections, the intensification of the suffocating atmosphere against the Muslim majority community of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the closure of critical and oppositional media, including Islamist, Western, and influential media such as ANS TV, Baku’s downgrade from 128 to 157 among 180 countries from the point of view of financial corruption based on the report of the International Transparency Organization in 2022 and its continuation, the boycott of the elections by the opposition parties of Musavat and the Popular Front, and calling it a show, the coordinated action of the so-called rival candidates in praising Aliyev instead of presenting a program in the election process. Altogether, it presented a type of presidential election that has no similar history in the world.
Third: This election was held about a year and a half ahead of schedule. In the 2018 elections, according to the government’s announcement, Aliyev won about 85% of the votes, and according to the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, he has been at the peak of popularity since last year. So the question is, what was the need to hold early presidential elections? This issue is affected by internal and external factors, some of which include the maximum exploitation of the wave arising from the third Karabakh war, the continuation of the disagreement between the Aliyev and Pashayev families within the government, the ruling party’s assessment of the intensification of European human rights pressures following the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Karabakh in September 2023 and accordingly the estimation of the reduction of the defined role for Baku in providing Europe’s energy in the future perspective, which Zahid Oruj, the Pro-Aliyev election candidate, mentioned as external threats; And finally, the order of the Zionist and London front for a new round of geopolitical sedition in the region and the need of ” New Azerbaijan Party” to be relieved from the challenges of elections.
Fourth: According to the announcement of the Central Election Commission, about 67% of eligible candidates participated in the elections. Although there is no doubt that Aliyev would win this “event” due to the one-sidedness of the campaign and election process, and the support of other candidates, there have been numerous reports of manipulation of the vote to increase the turnout. In general, four important groups did not participate in these elections or had weak participation, which are: 1. Islamic popular groups protesting the government’s anti-Shia approaches; hundreds of them are in Aliyev’s prisons. 2. Large ethnic minorities such as Talyshis, Lezgis, and Avars, Tats, and Udis, who, with their past experiences and seeing the ethnic cleansing in Karabakh, see themselves as the next victims of the intensification of pan-Turanism in the Republic of Azerbaijan. 3. Pro-West opposition parties such as Musavat and the Popular Front. 4. Various groups protesting corruption and unfair distribution of oil wealth and elites who believe that the Aliyev family, by following the geopolitical intrigues of the Zionist-London-Neo-Ottoman front in the Karabakh issue, has already put the country in the trap of Zionists.
Fifth: On January 24, 2024, and about two weeks before the elections, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refused to approve the credentials of the delegation of the Republic of Azerbaijan due to “very serious concerns” about the country’s ability to hold free and fair elections. In the Council of Europe in 2001, this was unprecedented. The reason why some European assemblies explicitly or implicitly accepted the results of this election should be most probably related to the energy issue as Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, called the Republic of Azerbaijan “an important partner of Europe in the field of energy supply” in 2022 in Baku. But the issue of concern for Baku is the prospect of its waning role affected by the Ukraine crisis, the new European energy arrangements, and the failure of the Turani Corridor conspiracy of NATO and its energy sector, and parallel to that, the escalation of human rights pressures.
Sixth: With the presidential elections held on on February 7, 2024, power in the Aliyev family, which started in 1993, already passed its thirtieth year. The evidence suggests that the Aliyev and Pashayev families agree on the transfer of power to ” Heydar,” the son of “Ilham Aliyev,” who is referred to as ” Heydar Aliyev II” in the Baku press. This issue, according to the opposition, signifies the transition from sham elections to the stabilization of the transfer of hereditary power. Despite this, it is premature to provide a detailed analysis in this regard because there are serious internal and external obstacles and challenges in this process. From this point of view, the three-stage change of the Aliyev family’s approach since 1993 from Europeanism to Americanism and finally to Israelism has had as many consequences for the Aliyev family as it has shaken their real position in the social context. In addition, the experience of international relations is meaningful in the case of tiny countries that take the role of agents of the plots of big powers.
Seventh: While the foreign nature of the Zionist-London-Neo-Ottoman grand plan, which led to the liberation of the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the cost of Zionist control over the whole country, is known to everyone, the ruling party of the Republic of Azerbaijan, with its increasingly brilliant propaganda, has become more captivated day by day. Prior to this, some American think tanks expressed concern about the consequences of creating this type of personality cult. Moreover, in an article written by Michael Rubin on April 16, 2021, the American Enterprise think tank named Ilham Aliyev as the “new Saddam Hussein” of the region. On the other hand, from this perspective, the February 7 elections in Baku were similar to the elections that the Iraqi Baath Party held in the last decade of its power in Iraq, including in 1995, due to the lack of a real competitor, the voting process, and the declared participation statistics. It seems that the intensification of “nationalism, Anti-Shi’ism, and de-minorization” in the country and geopolitical adventure in the region will be among the results of this election, which, according to the opponents, was also a kind of hereditary extension of power. This comes under the circumstances that even within the ruling party of Azerbaijan, the minority faction has the realistic view that the time for unilaterally beating the drum of drunkenness is over and the February 7 election should not cause the ruling power to become narcissistic, which can lead to costly or irreparable domestic or foreign behaviour.
By Dr. Ahmad Kazemi * Senior Eurasian researcher and university professor