BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has officially won another term in office with 92.12% of the vote, the country’s Central Election Commission said Friday.
Election monitors, however, have expressed concern about the vote. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Thursday that the election took place in a restrictive environment with no real political competition.
Aliyev has been in power for more than 20 years. He had called an early vote while he was enjoying a surge in popularity after his forces swiftly reclaimed the Karabakh region from ethnic Armenian separatists who had controlled it for three decades. He is now heading into another seven-year term in office.
The election Wednesday, “took place in a restrictive environment and … was marked with the stifling of critical voices,” said Artur Gerasymov, special coordinator and leader of the OSCE group of election observers in Azerbaijan.
Aliyev was “not meaningfully challenged,” and because of limitations on independent media, civil society and other political parties, the contest was “devoid of genuine pluralism,” Gerasymov said Thursday. He added that the “near absence of analytical reporting” in Azerbaijani media hampered voters’ ability to make an informed choice.
Analysts suggested that Aliyev moved the election forward to capitalize on his burst in popularity following September’s blitz in Karabakh. He will be in the limelight again in November when Azerbaijan, a country which relies heavily on revenues from fossil fuels, hosts a U.N. climate change conference.
Aliyev, 62, has been in power since 2003 when he succeeded his father, who was Azerbaijan’s Communist boss and then president for a decade when the country became independent after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Aliyev had declared that he wanted this election to “mark the beginning of a new era,” in which Azerbaijan has full control over its territory. He and his family cast their ballots in Khankendi, a city that was called Stepanakert by Armenians when it housed the headquarters of the self-declared separatist government.
The region, which had been known internationally as Nagorno-Karabakh, and large swaths of surrounding territory came under full control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia at the end of a separatist war in 1994.
Azerbaijan regained parts of Karabakh and most of the surrounding territory in 2020 in a six-week war that ended with a Moscow-brokered truce. In December 2022, Azerbaijan started blockading the road linking the region with Armenia, causing food and fuel shortages, and then launched a September 2023 blitz that routed separatist forces in just one day and forced them to lay down their arms.
More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the region, leaving it nearly deserted.
Aliyev’s time in power has been marked by the introduction of increasingly strict laws that curb political debate, as well as arrests of opposition figures and independent journalists — including in the runup to the presidential election.
Azerbaijan’s two main opposition parties — Musavat and the People’s Front of Azerbaijan — did not take part in the vote, and some opposition members alleged it may have been rigged.
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