16/10/2008 - Results
As forecast outgoing President of the Republic Ilham Alyev won the first round of the presidential election on 15th October in Azerbaijan. He won 88.67% of the vote – an almost Soviet result, far ahead of his 6 rivals who all won under 3% of the vote.
The four main opposition parties, (the Liberal Party, the Popular Front led by Ali Kerimli, the Civil Solidarity Party, Musavat led by Isa Gambar, the Public Forum for Azerbaijan led by Eldar Namazov) copied by many others, chose to boycott the election denounced by the latter as a "mascarade". "The election was a farce, a tragicomedy designed to increase the hold of the Alyev dynasty over the country. It was an imitation of an election. In this context the real winners are the democratic forces which boycotted the election but we would have liked so much for it to be the Azerbaijani people," said Musavat leader who added, "the richer the country becomes, the seedier its democracy." "They allow us no access to the media, we cannot organise any events. In these conditions taking part in the election would have been stupid," maintained Isa Gambar.
The opposition is however greatly divided and weakened by the personal ambitions of its various leaders. "The opposition did not manage to produce a candidate capable of attracting voters, "declared political analyst Rasim Musabayov.
In spite of the boycott of the election by many of the opposition parties turn out was higher than that recorded in the previous election on 5th October 2003 (75%, +4.5 points).
The 400 OSCE observers who were there to monitor the election denounced its undemocratic nature. "The election did not reflect the principles of a truly, pluralist, democratic election," reads the press release published on 16th October. The OSCE did say however that "significant progress had been made in comparison with the previous elections;" and regrets that the opposition refused to take part in the vote. The OSCE has never acknowledged a presidential election as being democratic in Azerbaijan.
46 year-old Ilham Alyev is the heir to the Alyev dynasty. Son of Heydar who was President of the Republic from 1993-2003 (but who previously led the Communist Party of the Republic of Azerbaijan from 1969-1982), Ilham was elected to the supreme off on 5th October 2003. He studied at the University for International Relations of Moscow (MGIMO) where he then taught for five years. From 1991 onwards he was a "businessman" in Moscow and Istanbul. In 1994, he took over the chairmanship of the SOCAR, Azerbaijan's national oil company before being elected to the Milli Majlis (the only chamber of Parliament); he then managed the country's Olympic Committee. His father's declining state of health encouraged him to launch into politics. He was then elected Vice-President of the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) which held the majority in parliament; he led the list of this party in the general elections on 5th November 2000 and on 7th January 2001, an election which he won but which international observers denounced since it was marred by infringements.
Azerbaijan which lies midway between Iran and Russia has the world's highest growth rate (24.7% GDP growth in 2007), an enviable geographic situation and vast energy resources which Alyev has turned into a major advantage for his country. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which he considers his greatest success enables the country to sell its oil on European markets without having to pass via Russia. Baku's position is however a complex one to manage such is the rivalry between Moscow and Washington to win its favours. Since his accession to power at the end of 2003 Ilham Alyev has cordial relations with Russia as well as with the Western States and has always avoided choosing between the two camps.
The high result he achieved in this election provides him with the vital legitimacy to continue his work. He will now have to succeed in finding the means to maintain the stability of economic growth in an international context that has been marked recently by soaring raw material prices and the financial crisis.
He will also have to achieve the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenia since 1993 after a war between Baku and Erevan; both countries have not managed to sign a peace agreement since that date). Ilham Alyev has promised to enhance Armenia's isolation as long as the latter does not relinquish its occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh.