Azerbaijan Voting Under Fire: Election Rigging Allegations Abound
Azerbaizanis are casting their votes in a snap presidential election, but reports of alleged abuses are already surfacing. The actions, including carousel voting and ballot tampering, are familiar to international monitors who have come to observe the election.
The reported irregularities in the February 7 poll include carousel voting, where individuals are transported to multiple polling stations to vote more than once, faulty markings with ink supposed to prevent repeat voting, and multiple voters gathering in a single booth to cast ballots.
The election was called by President Ilham Aliyev two months ago, following Azerbaijan’s military offensive in September 2023 to recapture Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite the call for new polls to mark this “new era,” much of the legitimate opposition in the country chose to boycott the vote.
In addition to the alleged irregularities, there are reports of employees of kindergartens and secondary schools being ordered to work on the public holiday. Residents reported that workers were forced to go vote and then come to work, or else they would face consequences. These reports were met with denial from a representative of the Imishli district executive authority, Muhammad Ismayilov, who claimed he voted with family members in a local polling station.
The election is continuing amid complaints of police obstruction of independent observers and journalists, as well as video evidence of electoral workers handling pre-cut ballots. In another instance, journalists were prevented from filming at a polling station despite having press credentials.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has also voiced concerns about the election, echoing the irregularities and issues reported on election day. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) warned of detentions and arrests, restrictions on media, and the blocking of critical media websites leading up to the election.
Despite these concerns and reports of election rigging, there is little doubt that President Aliyev is on track to win a fifth consecutive election. He has consistently won with at least 85 percent of the vote in his previous reelections.
It remains to be seen how international observers and the government in Azerbaijan will address these allegations of election rigging and irregularities.