President Ilham Aliyev unexpectedly moves up the date of the presidential election from October to April " />

Azerbaijan calls snap presidential election

President Ilham Aliyev unexpectedly moves up the date of the presidential election from October to April

President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on 5 February setting the date of a snap presidential election in the country scheduled for 11 April. Before that the presidential election was scheduled for 17 October as prescribed by the Azerbaijani Electoral Code.

The President is entitled to call an early presidential election following a constitutional referendum made on 26 September 2016.

Under the amendments introduced to the country’s Electoral Code end of last year, early presidential elections should be announced at least 60 days prior to the election day.

The presidential decree doesn’t specify the reason behind this decision. Social media users presented different versions, trying to explain the president’s unexpected decision.

Elhan Shahinoglu, the head of the Atlas Analytical Center, suggested three possible versions:

  • The President fears the situation in Azerbaijan may become unstable before autumn. Therefore he has decided to take actions to prevent it;
  • The President seeks to deprive the opposition of a chance to use the upcoming centenary anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which will be celebrated on 28 May, for their own propagandist purposes;
  • Aliyev has timed his election to coincide with the presidential polls in Russia and Armenia so as to prevent the external forces from meddling in the election campaign in Azerbaijan. According to Shahinoglu, the President believes that those countries will be preoccupied with their own elections in March and April.

Natig Jafarli, Executive Secretary of the Republican Alternative (REAL) opposition movement gave some alternative possibilities:

  • Technical reasons. Due to the presidential term being extended from five to seven years, both the next presidential and parliamentary elections would take place at the same time in the fall of 2025. Therefore, it was decided to split those two different processes;
  • The West will be busy assessing the Russian presidential election which is scheduled for 18 March. Against such a background, any possible violations in the course of the presidential election in Azerbaijan will not be given as much attention as usual;
  • The change in the election date could possibly be linked to the upcoming release of the leader of the REAL movement, Ilgar Mammadov, who the authorities don’t want to see among their rivals at the coming election. Mammadov currently isn’t entitled to nominate himself as a presidential candidate. However, he will enjoy this right upon release.

Facebook users have offered two more possible versions:

  • It is expected that there will be another hike in the public utilities prices, and the president wants to take this unpopular step after the election
  • An unpopular decision is expected to be made in the peace talks on the Karabakh conflict

The President’s decision was certainly conceived of in advance as last week the executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, Ali Ahmadov, announced Aliyev’s nomination for the fourth presidential term without waiting for the party congress.

The presidential election campaign will officially commence in Azerbaijan on 19 march, three weeks prior to the election day.

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