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Azerbaijan holds snap presidential vote as Aliyev rides help from retaking of Karabakh

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BAKU, Azerbaijan — Azerbaijanis are voting Wednesday in an election nearly sure to see incumbent President Ilhan Aliyev chosen to serve one other seven-year time period, following his authorities’s retaking of a area previously managed by ethnic Armenian separatists.

Aliyev, 62, has been in energy for greater than 20 years, and that is his fifth election cycle. He ordered an early presidential election in December, shortly after his authorities retook the Karabakh area in a lightning army operation towards ethnic Armenian forces.

Analysts urged Aliyev moved the election ahead from October 2025 to capitalize on his burst in reputation following the profitable offensive. He shall be within the limelight in November when Azerbaijan, a rustic which depends closely on revenues from fossil fuels, hosts a U.N. local weather change convention.

Aliyev’s time in energy has been marked by the introduction of more and more strict legal guidelines that curb political debate in addition to arrests of opposition figures and impartial journalists — together with within the run-up to the presidential election.

In January, Aliyev advised native tv channels that he wished the election to “mark the start of a brand new period,” through which Azerbaijan has full management over its territory. He identified that polls can be held for the primary time within the Karabakh area after the mass exodus of 1000’s of ethnic Armenians who fled following the Azerbaijani army offensive.

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Within the capital, Baku, 52-year-old resident Sevda Mirzoyeva stated she was going to be sure you vote within the election.

“I’ll vote for the victorious chief Ilham Aliyev,” Mirzoyeva advised The Related Press. Aliyev, she stated, “returned our lands, which have been occupied for a few years. And he additionally completed plenty of issues, together with for younger individuals.”

There isn’t any restrict on the variety of phrases Aliyev can serve, and though six different candidates are standing towards him, he has no actual political challenger. A number of of the candidates opposing Aliyev have beforehand publicly praised him.

Components of Azerbaijan’s opposition have alleged that Wednesday’s vote is perhaps rigged. Azerbaijan’s two predominant opposition events — Musavat and the Individuals’s Entrance of Azerbaijan — will not be collaborating within the vote.

Musavat chief Arif Hajili advised the AP that the get together wouldn’t be taking part within the elections as a result of they aren’t democratic.

“Many journalists and political activists are in jail. There are greater than 200 political prisoners. There are critical points with election regulation and the election commissions are principally below the authorities’ affect,” Hajili stated.

Ali Karimli, chief of Individuals’s Entrance of Azerbaijan Celebration, has stated that calling for an early election with out public debate exhibits that the authorities are afraid of political competitors.

In principle, there could be two rounds of voting if a candidate fails to safe greater than 50% of the vote within the first spherical, however Aliyev is extensively anticipated to be reelected in a landslide, as he has been in earlier elections.

The elections in Azerbaijan are being held shortly earlier than these in Russia. Analysts have beforehand speculated that Aliyev is making an attempt to consolidate his personal help and decrease attainable Russian affect on the elections by holding them at a time when the Kremlin shall be preoccupied with its personal vote.

Russia, which has developed heat ties with Azerbaijan, is concerned in a fragile balancing act because it is also a key ally and sponsor of Armenia, which took in additional than 100,000 refugees from the Karabakh area after Azerbaijan retook management of it in September.

In November, Aliyev presided over a army parade via Khankendi, the capital of the area, telling spectators that “we confirmed the entire world the energy, dedication and indomitable spirit of the Azerbaijani individuals.”

Khankendi, which Armenians referred to as Stepanakert, was the headquarters of the self-declared separatist authorities of the territory recognized internationally as Nagorno-Karabakh. The area and sizable surrounding territory got here below management of ethnic Armenians in 1994 on the finish of a separatist struggle.

However Azerbaijan regained components of it and a lot of the surrounding territory in 2020 after a six-week struggle. That preventing ended with a Russia-brokered truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia that referred to as for Russian peacekeeping forces to be deployed there and to make sure open transit alongside a highway connecting the town with Armenia.

Nonetheless, Azerbaijan started blockading that highway in December 2022, resulting in extreme meals and drugs shortages within the Armenian-held space. Then in September, Azerbaijan launched a blitz that pressured the separatist forces to disband.

Greater than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the area within the following days, leaving the town almost abandoned and below the management of Azerbaijan.

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