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President Aliyev’s snap election in Azerbaijan locks in his legitimacy and normalizes his prerogative


As Azerbaijan faces transitions in its relations with Armenia and its energy portfolio, this week’s poll secures the leadership into the next decade.

On 7 February Azerbaijan will go to the polls in a snap presidential election called by President Ilham Aliyev in December.

President since 2003, Aliyev is seeking re-election for a fifth term of seven years (the length of presidential terms introduced by referendum in 2016) to 2031, when he will turn 70. A previous referendum in 2009 abolished the limit to the number of terms a president can serve.  

The election campaign has yielded no surprises in a political system which scholars have defined as a hegemonic variant of authoritarianism. The campaign has featured a performative pluralism, in which multiple candidates – generally figures not well known to the public – participate, but are united in their praise of the incumbent, who does not himself campaign.

Azerbaijan’s opposition parties meanwhile have boycotted the election – as they have done for a decade. Unlike Azerbaijan’s last presidential election in 2018, there have been no rallies.

Yet there has been the customary silencing of critics. A dozen journalists known for their investigative work on corruption were targeted in a wave of arrests on charges of smuggling cash, extortion and petty hooliganism.

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