Azerbaijan’s central election commission has announced that President Ilham Aliyev has received 92% of the vote in snap presidential elections, according to preliminary results.
The results would give Aliyev a fifth term as president, having succeeded his father in October 2003. In the previous election in 2018, electoral authorities announced he had won 86% of the vote. The Central Election Commission said voter turnout was 77%.
Wednesday’s vote was accompanied by widespread reports of electoral fraud, with independent media and activists posting footage online appearing to show ballot box stuffing, carousels, and other violations.
The footage emerged despite apparent attempts to block some observers from entering polling stations. Turan claimed that journalists not registered on Azerbaijan’s controversial Media Registry were barred from filming inside polling stations.
Election specialist Mammad Mammadzade told Meydan TV that observers were pressured during the opening of polling stations and the voting process.
‘Observers who want to take photos or videos are removed from the [polling] station in some form. They apply pressure, they call the police. These forms of pressure can be found in almost all polling stations’, Mammadzadeh said.
Aliyev was running against six other candidates, all of whom have in the past consistently supported the ruling party. None of the six won more than 2% in the official results. Azerbaijan’s major opposition parties announced in December that they would boycott the election.
The vote also came in the wake of the latest crackdown on independent media in Azerbaijan.
Since late November, police have arrested and charged five members of AbzasMedia with smuggling foreign currency as part of a group. The arrests included director and founder Ulvi Hasanli, editor-in-chief Sevinj Vagifgizi, deputy director Mahammad Kekalov, and journalists Hafiz Babali and Nargiz Absalamova and Elnara Gasimova.
Ilhamiz Guliyev, a human rights activist and former police officer who gave anonymous comments to AbzasMedia about the alleged practice of police planting drugs on suspects, was also arrested at the beginning of December and charged with possessing a large quantity of methamphetamine.
The founders of Kanal 13 and Kanal 11, two online TV channels, were also arrested in November and December. The former was charged with building a house without a permit, and the latter with extortion.
Aliyev announced snap elections in December, claiming this was because Azerbaijan had taken complete control of Nagorno-Karabakh. Elections were not set to be held until 2025.
Some government critics have suggested the move could be a precursor to a transition to a parliamentary republic. Others have suggested that Azerbaijan’s economic and social issues are set to worsen in the near future, driving Aliyev to take advantage of his current favourable ratings after having taken control of Nagorno-Karabakh.