Russian senators begin election observation mission in Azerbaijan

Photo: Reuters

A delegation of Russian senators will begin observing Azerbaijan’s presidential election.

Incumbent President Ilham Aliyev called for an early election set for Thursday, nearly two years ahead of schedule. The election notably comes about a month before Russia’s own presidential election and following Azerbaijan’s seizure of the Armenia-disputed Karabakh region. Campaigning has also coincided with a rise in arrests of independent journalists. Aliyev has ruled Azerbaijan in an authoritarian fashion since 2003, succeeding his father.

Analysts are divided on why the election was called early. Some believe it was to ride on the wave of popularity from Karabakh. Others say it is to prevent Russian interference—as Russia will be distracted by its own election—given Russia’s interest in maintaining its alliance with Armenia. It is more likely the former. Aliyev is interested in perpetuating his presidency. While there is a substantial pro-Russian faction within Azerbaijan, any threat posed by Russia to his reign will not likely materialize so long as Aliyev’s authoritarian regime is maintained. In the all-but-certain victory, however, Aliyev will likely be emboldened to adopt an even more aggressive posture toward Armenia potentially leading him to difficulties with Russia in the medium-term.

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