#Azerbaijan elections: President Aliyev consolidates power

| February 14, 2020

Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan last weekend were conducted smoothly and delivered a solid majority for the ruling New Azerbaijan Party. The result is an endorsement of President Ilham Aliyev’s (pictured) agenda, and gives a platform for the Parliament to now undertake a reinvigorated reform programme, modernize Azerbaijan’s institutions and diversify its economy, writes James Wilson.

The elections were monitored by more than 77,000 local and 842 international observers representing 56 international organizations from 55 countries.

More than five million voters were eligible to vote for 1,324 candidates from 19 political parties. Candidates from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan) party won about 65 of 125 seats in the single-chamber parliament.

Ettore Licheri, an Italian election observer who is a member of the Italian Senate for the Five Star Movement Party and the Chairperson of the EU Policies Committee, said that the EU sees Azerbaijan as a model that combines Western and Middle Eastern culture, while maintaining peace and wealth: “It is a very young democracy that only gained its independence in 1991 and people were focused and passionate at the polling stations.

“Being situated on the ancient Silk Road, this country has a particular history. This can be seen by looking at its architecture, a mixture between European and Eastern styles. It has a true potential to become a model for women’s emancipation, human rights and democratic standards. This morning I visited a polling station for refugees and it touched me to see an old woman crying in front of pictures depicting lost lives during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Memories of war are still fresh in people’s minds. It takes at least three generations to leave these painful memories behind.

“The EU sees Azerbaijan as a model that combines Western culture with the Middle Eastern one all by maintaining peace and wealth. It is a very young democracy that only gained its independence in 1991.  Still, we observed that people were attentive and passionate in the polling stations today. 

“There is significant economic development and diversification efforts in Azerbaijan,” said Osvaldo Napoli, member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, from the Forza Italia party. “It is a country that has made much progress in the economic field. Italy and Azerbaijan have privileged ties. Following the recent visit of our President, the President of Azerbaijan will visit Italy on 20 February. 

“Today, we went to five polling stations and in those stations we havent observed any irregularities,” he went on to say.

The election results are consistent with an exit poll on Sunday overseen by American polling firm Arthur J. Finkelstein & Associates, which found that New Azerbaijan Party candidates won 69 of 125 parliamentary seats.

George Birnbaum, Vice President of Arthur J. Finkelstein & Associates, said 2,106 exit poll workers had been stationed at 1,053 polling stations. “The election results are a clear indication of support for the reform policies of the government that will further advance democratic values in Azerbaijan,” Birnbaum said.

The single-chamber parliament is elected every five years through voting for individual candidates in electoral districts.

Aliyev, who has been in power for 17 years, called the election in December, nine months before it was formally due.

Officials from his governing party said the move was “to support the president’s policy on reforms and personnel changes”.

Aliyev has held power since he was elected in October 2003, two months before the death of his father who held power for a decade. He won elections in 2008, 2013 and 2018, and two separate referendums scrapped a two-term presidential limit and extended the presidential term to seven years from five.

Western nations have courted Azerbaijan because of its role as an alternative to Russia in supplying oil and gas to Europe.

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