Azerbaijanis are going to the polls today to vote in snap presidential elections, being held a year before President Ilham Aliyev’s fourth term comes to an end.
08 Feb 2024, 00:48
We’re closing our elections live blog for today. You can read a summary of today’s events in Azerbaijan here.
Read in Georgian on On.ge.
08 Feb 2024, 00:13
Preliminary results give Aliyev 92%
The chair of the Central Election Commission, Mazahir Panahov, has announced that according to the preliminary results, Ilham Aliyev received 92% of the vote. Zahid Oruj, Fazil Mustafa, and Gudrat Hasanguliyev all received around 2%, while Razi Nurullayev, Elshad Musayev, and Fuad Aliyev all scored under 1%.
07 Feb 2024, 22:23
Final voter turnout: 77%
The Central Election Comission has announced that voter turnout was 77%.
07 Feb 2024, 19:00
Polls in the snap presidential elections closed at 19:00.
07 Feb 2024, 18:56
Russia’s Karasin: A ‘model’ for Russia’s presidential election
Grigory Karasin, who chairs the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, has reportedly praised Azerbaijan’s elections.
According to pro-government Azerbaijani news agency Report.az, Karasin said the election could serve as a ‘model’ for Russia’s own presidential elections due in March.
‘Russia is also preparing for the March elections, and we [observers] will bring some experience from Baku to ourselves’, Karasin is reported to have said.
‘The eventual victor will undoubtedly emerge as the strongest contender. Those who cast their votes today hold hope for Azerbaijan’s transformation into a modern, dynamic country. This aspiration draws a significant number of voters to the polling stations. It is both visually captivating and heartening. I would like to extend my gratitude, saying “thanks” to the organisers who have successfully created such conducive conditions’, Azertac quoted him as saying.
Karasin is in Azerbaijan as part of the Federation Council’s election monitoring mission.
07 Feb 2024, 18:35
A crackdown on media
Today’s election comes 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.
In the 2023 Freedom of Media Index of the International Reporters Without Borders, Azerbaijan is ranked 151st among 180 countries around the world.
07 Feb 2024, 17:44
Official turnout 71% as of 17:00
The head of Azerbaijan’s Central Electoral Commission Information Centre, Farid Orujov, announced that 4.6 million Azerbaijani citizens had cast their votes within the country’s borders by 17:00, bringing the total official voter turnout to 71%.
07 Feb 2024, 17:16
Official turnout of 54% at Azerbaijani embassy in Georgia
Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Georgia, Faig Guliyev, told journalists that by 15:00, 54% of Azerbaijani citizens registered to vote in Georgia had voted at the embassy. He added that six of the voters were 18 years old, while the oldest was an 87-year-old Azerbaijani citizen.
07 Feb 2024, 16:48
Videos of ballot-stuffing emerge
Mikroskop Media and MeydanTV have published CCTV footage alleged to show voters submitting multiple ballots at a polling station in Salyan-Bilasuvar-Neftchala electoral district. MeydanTV has also published more footage appearing to show people casting votes at multiple polling stations.
Azerbaijan’s Media Development Agency and State Service of Special Communication and Information Security have released a joint statement denying the accusations, alleging that the videos are false and created to manipulate the public.
❗️Daha bir seçki pozuntusu. Bu dəfə bir seçici qutuya birdən çox bülleten atır. Qanun pozuntusu 90 saylı Ağsu seçki dairəsinin 32-ci seçki məntəqəsində qeydə alınıb. pic.twitter.com/MlDMOxIlY7
— Mikroskop Media (@MikroskopMedia) February 7, 2024
07 Feb 2024, 16:20
Azerbaijan’s Central Electoral commission has announced that as of 15:00, 3.9 million people had cast their votes within the country’s borders, bringing the total official voter turnout to 61%.
07 Feb 2024, 15:50
Localised internet restrictions reported
A number of independent Azerbaijani journalists have reported localised internet outages, concentrated around polling stations.
They claim that they have been unable to send video or voice recordings via messaging apps, both near polling stations and at a distance from them.
According to an employee of Meydan TV, since 6 February, there have been internet restrictions in Fuzuli, which came under Azerbaijani control following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.
07 Feb 2024, 15:21
The election is being monitored by a mission from the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
In their interim report covering 29 December–19 January, the organisation noted that a number of journalists and people connected to ‘online media organisations’ had been detained and arrested in the months prior to the election.
‘Such cases, as well as the restrictive nature of the new media law, the ban on foreign funding of the media, and several the blocking of important critical media sites within the country’s borders is a concern’, said the report.
It also noted that none of Azerbaijan’s main oppositions were participating in the election, with one calling for a boycott, and that the main themes of the candidates’ campaigns were foreign policy and restoring Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
The OSCE Mission will hold a press conference to share their findings on 8 February, the day following the elections. Journalists will be able to attend in person in Baku or online.
On 3 February, Azerbaijan reportedly barred Nik Gugger, a Swiss MP who was set to take part in the OSCE’s mission, from entering the country on 3 February.
Gugger told Swiss media that other OSCE observers who had arrived with him, including other Swiss observers, were allowed into Azerbaijan.
07 Feb 2024, 14:11
Accusations of electoral fraud
Independent Azerbaijani media outlet MeydanTV has shared footage appearing to show a woman casting a vote at two polling stations, which she then confirms verbally.
Previous elections have been marred by accusations of electoral fraud, both from international organisations and local opposition. Azerbaijan’s major political parties have boycotted previous general and presidential elections in part due to claims that results are falsified.
During the 2020 parliamentary elections, the observation missions from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) noted ‘significant procedural violations during the counting and tabulation of votes’.
07 Feb 2024, 13:54
Journalists reportedly barred from polling stations
Turan has claimed that journalists not registered on Azerbaijan’s controversial Media Registry have been barred from filming inside polling stations. Azerbaijan’s Central Electoral Commission has denied the claims, stating that journalists were not required to have registered, and accusing some of not presenting their press cards.
‘Sometimes, journalists do not present their identity cards, and commission employees do not know who they are, so there is a misunderstanding’, the Central Election Commission statement claimed.
Independent journalist Lida Abbasli reported that she was not allowed to film inside a Baku polling station today.
‘I said that I am a journalist, I don't have to get permission to shoot, but they didn't pay attention. I had to continue filming in front of the police station. I couldn't take any pictures from inside’, Abbasli said.
07 Feb 2024, 13:30
Why is Azerbaijan holding snap elections?
In January, Aliyev told local television that his decision to hold the elections a year early related to Azerbaijan taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023, and the consequent ability to hold elections throughout Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. He also related the announcement to the 20-year anniversary of his taking on the presidency, which fell in 2023.
Government critics have however suggested that the move could be a precursor to a transition to a parliamentary republic, which could tighten the ruling family’s already firm grip on power.
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.
Following a referendum held in 2016, Azerbaijan’s constitution was amended to extend a presidential term from five to seven years.
07 Feb 2024, 12:56
Official turnout 39% by 12:00
Azerbaijan’s Central Electoral Commission has announced that as of midday, 2.5 million people had cast their votes within the country’s borders, bringing the total official voter turnout to 39%.
Azerbaijan’s current president, Ilham Aliyev, and his family cast their votes in Stepanakert (Khankendi), the now practically deserted former capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, which came under Azerbaijani control in September 2023.
Mazahir Panahov, the chair of the Central Electoral Commission, stated earlier that preliminary results would be announced at 21:00.
07 Feb 2024, 12:29
Who’s running against Aliyev?
Aliyev is running against six other candidates, all of whom have consistently sided with the ruling party and are believed to pose no threat to the current president.
Azerbaijan’s major opposition parties announced in December that they would boycott the election.
Aliyev’s current term began in April 2018, when he won with 86% of the vote. He has been Azerbaijan’s president since October 2003.
Aliyev’s official competitors for the presidency are:
Fazil Mustafa — MP and chair of the Great Establishment party. Mustafa took part in the 2008 presidential elections and came third with 2.43%. He is currently deputy chair of the parliament’s culture committee and a member of Azerbaijan’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Zahid Orujov — MP and chair of the parliament’s Human Rights Committee.
Gudrat Hasanguliyev — MP and chair of the All-Azerbaijan People’s Front Party since 2004. Hasanguliyev previously ran in the 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018 presidential elections.
Razi Nurullayev — MP and chair of the National Front Party. Nurullayev took part in Azerbaijan’s last presidential elections, taking last place out of eight candidates with 0.74%.
Elshad Musayev — chair of the Great Azerbaijan party. Elshad Musayev nominated himself in the 2003 presidential elections, but was at that time rejected by the Central Election Commission.
Fuad Aliyev — chair of the Independent Trade Union (ITU). Aliyev took part in the 2008 presidential elections and took sixth place with 0.77% of the vote.
07 Feb 2024, 12:00
Polls opened today at 08:00 and will remain open until 19:00.
According to the Central Election Commission, 6.5 million people are eligible to vote.
Voting will take place in 6,537 polling stations across Azerbaijan and 49 polling stations abroad in 37 countries.
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. The authorities said that more than 23,000 voters would vote in 26 polling stations in the territories that have come under Azerbaijan’s control since 2020.