Alwaght- On Sunday, Azerbaijan held its early parliamentary election in which the ruling party said it has won a majority of the seats.
Some 5.3 million Azerbaijanis have been eligible to vote in the sixth general election since the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
1315 candidates including 299 women under 19 parties fought for 125 parliamentary seats. 77,700 home observers and 880 foreign observers supervised the race to the Azerbaijani parliament, officially dubbed National Assembly.
The vote comes as President Ilham Aliyev on December 5 dissolved the parliament and announced early election. In the last general election, held in 2015, the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) led by the president won 75 seats.
Azerbaijan has about 10 million population from which, according to the election authorities, 5.3 million are eligible for voting.
Central Election Committee in a statement said that the voter turnout in the Sunday election was 47.81 percent.
Ruling party leading
Less than 24 hours after the election, the ruling party declared victory. Ali Ahmadov, the deputy prime minister and deputy YAP chairman, announced the victory news on his Facebook page saying “the early general election has ended. The emerging results show a win for the ruling party. Now I can congratulate new win to my fellow party members.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated his Azerbaijani counterpart Aliyev the win of the ruling party.
Why was the parliament dissolved?
The country was planned to hold its sixth election in the fall of 2020. But the ruling party in late last year called for the dissolution of the parliament and holding snap election all to pave the way for accelerating the structural reforms eyed by President Aliyev.
However, critics cast doubt on Aliyev’s intentions saying that the president is seeking two-thirds of the seats of the parliament to change the constitution and thus prepare the ground for the presidency of his wife Mehriban Aliyeva. She is now serving as the vice-president.
In the face of the criticism from the opposition and also worries expressed by rights groups, supporters of the president argue that Aliyev has managed to transform Azerbaijan into an independent energy power using the incomes of oil sales, something allowing him to modernize and renew the country.
Before the election, Bahar Muradova, a senior member of the ruling party, said that the officials will do their best to hold free and transparent election in a democratic atmosphere.
Parliamentary election under the shadow of boycott
The early election in Azerbaijan were held while opposition groups and parties called it fraudulent and for show, urging the people to boycott the vote.
Opposition parties in the country say that the snap vote will only shore up Aliyev’s power and will have no good for the nation. His opponents say the 58-year-old president, who immersed the country into financial challenges and economic recession, is holding the election to justify his rule and positively paint his image and at the same time replace the old guard of the party with newer, younger technocrats. Aliyev's family ruled the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Experts say that the main goal behind the election is to replace the older faces with younger ones with the aim to decrease the discontent caused by economic troubles the country is grappling with.
The opposition groups say that the results are determined in advance and the new members of parliament all will be supporting the president.
The French news agency AFP in a report said that Aliyev is an authoritarian president who after replacing his father in 2003 ruled the former Soviet republic with an iron fist.
Ali Karimli, the head of Azerbaijan Popular Front, whose party boycotted the election, said that instead of real changes Aliyev seeks something close to political fine-tuning. “This is done by expelling the old faces of the party. Those the people do not like,” he said.
Anar Mammadli, an Azerbaijani analyst and human rights activist, said that the popular fury is on the rise in the country. He told the French news agency that Aliyev held the election 8 months earlier because he was afraid of protests expansion. He further said that the reshuffle of the government that came a few months ago and also the new parliamentary election all pursue a single goal: Prolonging Aliyev’s rule.
According to the opposition voices, the president seeks undisputed power. In 2017, he appointed his wife as a new vice-president. Furthermore, the president’s son Haider, who is 20-years-old, is viewed as the possible successor to the father.
How the early election affect Azerbaijan internally
Regardless of some internal changes that can follow the election, it does seem the vote would fundamentally change the foreign policy or the regional approach of Baku.
A former Soviet republic, Azerbaijan beside good relations with Russia has close ties with the West, mainly the US. This issue cannot be ignored in any analysis of the country.
Regionally, Azerbaijan has friendly relations with its neighbors Iran and Turkey. The country is expected to keep its closeness to Tehran and Ankara in the future.