Azerbaijan’s Incumbent President Expected to Win Fifth Straight Term in Election on February 7
As Azerbaijan gears up for its presidential election scheduled for February 7, a recent debate highlighted the lack of genuine opposition to the incumbent president, Ilham Aliyev. While the main opposition parties in Azerbaijan have chosen to boycott the race, critics say that the presence of mere “puppet” challengers puts a spotlight on Aliyev’s authoritarian rule over the country.
The perceived lack of real competition in the election has led to disapproval from the international community. In the debate, candidates appearing to support Aliyev praised his leadership and fulfilled promises, while calling him a symbol of a strong state. These candidates are seen as placeholders, as the real opposition parties have refrained from participating in the election due to past experiences and results.
One of the main topics of discussion leading up to the election has been the quick decision to move up the voting date from 2025 to 2024. Critics see this as a strategic move by Aliyev to secure his position amid growing economic and social unrest in the country, and to demonstrate strength in the wake of Azerbaijan’s capture of the ethnic Armenian-dominated region of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023.
Political analyst Anar Mammadli noted that Aliyev’s recent success in the region provides him with political capital, making it easier for him to run for office. However, the victory does not overshadow the country’s stagnant economy and rising social problems.
The absence of genuine opposition candidates has led to a number of lesser-known figures stepping in to run for the presidency. However, these candidates and the parties they represent have been accused of being created and funded by the government and are seen as playing the role of opposition to maintain the appearance of a fair electoral process.
Furthermore, the restrictive environment for political discussion and the recent media laws have raised concerns about the fairness of the election. On the international front, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has highlighted the lack of genuine opposing candidates and the restrictive conditions that the election is being conducted under.
The decision by the prominent opposition parties to boycott the election has also drawn criticism, with some arguing that an organized movement for change is needed. Others have questioned the preparedness of the opposition leaders and their ability to create a real challenge to Aliyev’s rule.
In light of the upcoming election, Aliyev’s attempt to formalize his rule has underlined the power struggle in Azerbaijan and the pressure on the opposition to mobilize and offer a credible alternative. As the country braces for the election, the absence of real opposition candidates is putting the credibility of the democratic process in Azerbaijan under scrutiny.