Azerbaijan’s largest opposition parties have vowed to boycott February’s presidential elections, citing repression and the lack of a democratic environment in the country.
On Saturday, the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party announced they would not take part in the snap elections scheduled for February, citing Azerbaijan’s ‘current atmosphere of repression, mass arrests, and fear’.
‘The extraordinary election scheduled by [President] Ilham Aliyev for 7 February 2024 will not be an actual election but an election show. The Azerbaijani Popular Front Party does not intend to participate in this spectacle’, stated the party, while calling on their supporters to ‘boycott these fake elections’.
The day before, the Musavat Party also vowed to boycott the elections, stating that Aliyev’s ‘sudden announcement’ of the elections had taken place ‘without any public discussion’.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Musavat’s chair, Arif Hajili, said that the government refused to allow Musavat to register their presidential candidate for the elections.
‘This calls into question the objectivity of the election’, said Hajili. ‘We requested that when the elections are announced, certain relaxations should occur, political prisoners should be released, and free assembly, freedom of speech, and expression should be ensured. However, the steps taken by the Azerbaijani authorities showed that they are not going to make any positive changes’.
Last week, Azerbaijani police arrested Tofig Yagublu, a prominent member of Musavat, on charges of fraud.
He was the latest political activist to be detained in Azerbaijan’s recent crackdown on media and civil society.
Since November, Azerbaijan has arrested four members of AbzasMedia on charges of smuggling foreign currency into the country, two members of Kanal 13, and the director of Kanal 11.
While Musavat and the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party have announced they were boycotting the upcoming elections, seven people — including President Aliyev — have submitted their candidacies since the announcement of the snap elections.
Those in the running against Aliyev include independent politician Zahid Oruj; Chair of the Whole Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Gudrat Hasanguliyev; Razi Nurullayev of the National Front Party; Fazil Mustafa of the Great Order Party; Elshad Musayev, chair of the Great Azerbaijan Party; and Fuad Aliyev the former chair of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Aliyev announced earlier in December that Azerbaijan would hold snap presidential elections on 7 February 2024, a year before his fourth term as president ends.
Azerbaijan’s last presidential elections in 2018 and parliamentary elections in 2020 were also held earlier than scheduled, with the authorities citing the need to hold snap elections to speed up reform progress in the country.
However, the opposition claims that no fundamental reforms have been carried out in Azerbaijan since either election.