Tazeen Akhtar /Islamabad
Republic of Azerbaijan is all set to go into “early election” to elect their President on 7 Feb 2024 instead of 2025 the actual election year. President Ilham Aliyev was last elected with 86% majority vote in 2018. Why snap election? A question most of the observers of Azerbaijan politics are working and commenting upon is not very difficult to answer. President himself in a recent interview answered to that question. That Azerbaijan has liberated Karabakh region.
It was indeed a great achievement of Azerbaijan to liberate its occupied territories in Second Karabakh war between 27 Sep to 10 Nov 2020. Since then, Azerbaijan has done a lot for rehabilitation, reconstruction and reintegration of these territories. A large number of local population that were displaced by Armenians have returned to their homes. This population is in the mainstream citizens of Azerbaijan. It is quite appreciative that the President sacrificed his one year remaining term to include this population in the democratic process of the country. Early election is in the same connection actually.
President Ilham Aliyev shared the reasons for early Presidential election in his recent interview – Here is the text ;
“The first reason is, of course, the full restoration of our sovereignty. The elections mark the end of an era. In September, we concluded such an era, which was an epochal event. I think that there has been no similar Victory in the centuries-old history of Azerbaijan. Considering all the factors – political, military, the 30-year occupation, the natural terrain of the territory, the number of defense lines – I think that this is the most brilliant Victory of our people and state. Of course, when this new era begins, a presidential election should mark the beginning of this new era. Because every period is a certain period of time, and the liberation of the territories occupied for 30 years and the full restoration of sovereignty are the beginning of a new period. This is the first reason.(https://president.az/en/articles/view/63017)
The second reason is that for the first time in our independent life, an election will be held in every corner of our country. Since presidential elections are the most important elections compared to all others. I thought that the first elections to be held across the entire territory of our country should be the presidential elections. If we were to hold this election on time, i.e. in April 2025, then municipal elections would be the first to be held. I thought that would not be right. The presidential elections should be the first elections to be held in liberated territories and every part of our country.
Another reason is that my activities as President have passed the 20-year mark. This is also a certain period and we must consider this as a conclusion in itself, and the holding of a presidential elections again after 20 years, of course, represents a justification for this chronological period. So, these are the main reasons. But I have arranged these reasons according to their importance. The first reason, of course, is the beginning of a new era, and the presidential elections will provide a blessing for this new era as well.”
The excerpt from President’s interview ends here.
The reasons and rationale are with arguments that can not be ignored. Azerbaijan is entering into new era of more challenging and diversified geo-political environment in the region and beyond. A united , determined nation with clarity of the destination and way to the destination can only pass through this crucial phase of complicated international dynamics.
Second big achievement of Azerbaijan was disintegration in Armenian society after Second Karabakh War between 27 Sep to 10 Nov 2020. The public and opposition in Armenia started protests that lately transformed into clashes in the coming years in Armenia. That led to further deterioration in the strength and unity of the Armenians.
Third success of Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev was to face the international pressure and survive the wrath of champions of international order, so called. No doubt it was great victory of Azerbaijan at the front as well as at international foras where the some western countries can not digest liberation of Azerbaijani territories from Armenian occupation. Azerbaijan took strict stand and convinced the world or third parties as ”We have implemented the resolutions of UNSC.”
In case of Pakistan India on Kashmir, we have the same situation, resolutions for plebiscite but no party dared ever to implement the resolutions by force there. I have many times at state media as well as in our own media have raised this point about why we are waiting for the implementation of UN resolutions for last 7 decades from UN or through some third party mediation when Azerbaijan waited for just 3 decades and took back its territories when found the opportunity.
Armenian aggression on Ganja and other border towns of Azerbaijan provided the chance to not only thwart the aggression but further advance into the occupied territories to silent the guns of the enemy and push them back to Armenia. India staged so called surgical strike in Sep 2016 and then Feb 2019. It was golden chance for Pakistan to cross control line and capture some occupied territories if not the whole state of Jammu Kashmir. Pakistan tried it in 1999 in Kargil during Gen Musharraf regime.
Coming back to Azerbaijan, thanks to above mentioned achievements, President Ilham Aliyev is enjoying the peak of his popularity. He is in the Presidency since Oct 2003. He has been re-elected consecutively in 2008, 2013 and 2018.
Winning the early election, that is clear he will win, thanks to above mentioned achievements and because the people are satisfied with his governance and policies, his president ship will continue till 2030. The total period of his presidency will consist of 27 long years from 2003 to 2030.
President is 61 now. He will be 68 till the next election in 2030. President is a body builder having good health and muscles. The muscles he has shown to the enemy in the last war. He will be fine and fit for the next election. Azerbaijan society has flourished and prospered in last decades thanks to the visionary leadership the National Leader Heydar Aliyev and now President Ilham Aliyev.
The objections regarding civil liberties in Azerbaijan, absence of opposition or pushing the opposition to wall, controlling the media are more a slander than the fact. Some critics of Azerbaijan speak the language of the enemy country or represent the behest of the countries that are always up to twist the arm of Azerbaijan. The independent media most often expose them for their blame game.
President rightly said in his recent interview:
“Unfortunately, the key players of the international community did not share our opinion. On the contrary, they tried to blame us and to engage various pressure mechanisms against us. In other words, we achieved this justice by waging political and diplomatic war at the international level. Therefore, our Victory is even more important.”
The observers admit that President Ilham Aliyev has taken measures to come out of the clout of former USSR culture and traditions. They point out mainly one thing in that direction, the supply of fuel to EU that helped the west fulfill its requirement when Russian fuel was banned for Ukraine conflict. Certainly they are more touchy to their own needs but there are many other measures to be noted in Azerbaijan for the well-being of the citizens.
Azerbaijan have taken necessary steps and legislation for civil rights and liberties, democracy, press freedom and religious tolerance. Azerbaijan is a country of multi-religious society where all followers of all faiths are free to observe their own worships and customs according to their own traditions. Now a new era is awaiting the Azerbaijani nation post-election of 07 Feb. We wish the best for this great nation for the future.