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Azerbaijan votes in snap presidential poll after Karabakh victory, crackdown on dissent


BAKU: Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is almost certain be re-elected on Wednesday in a vote he called early after the recapture of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia and a crackdown on the media.
Aliyev, who succeeded his father Heydar as president in 2003, has typically taken over 85% of the vote in elections that rights groups have said are neither free nor fair. Azerbaijani officials say the elections are fair and transparent, and that Aliyev’s popularity has increased since victory in Karabakh.
The two main opposition parties are boycotting the poll in the oil and gas producing state, which will host the United Nations COP29 climate talks in November. The country’s energy resources are central to Europe’s plans to reduce its dependency on Russian gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Baku, a close ally of Turkey which also maintains working relations with Russia, attributes Western criticism to bias against its mostly-Muslim populace.
In January, Aliyev, 62, told local media that he had called the snap poll to mark “the start of a new era” in Azerbaijan, which he said had restored its sovereignty by retaking Karabakh. He faces six nominal rivals, none of them critical of his rule.
A series of independent journalists have been arrested since November in a crackdown on dissent, several of them charged with crimes including smuggling.
International press freedom groups have described the arrests as an attempt to silence anti-corruption reporting.
Aliyev moved the election from Oct. 2025 in December, shortly after Azerbaijan retook Karabakh, an Azerbaijani region the mostly ethnic Armenian population of which had been de facto independent of Baku since the early 1990s.
As the Soviet Union unravelled, Azerbaijan lost an extended war with Armenia over Karabakh, a humiliating defeat which Aliyev worked to reverse. In September, he said that his “iron fist” had consigned the idea of an independent Karabakh to history.
For Azerbaijan, restoration of control over Karabakh marks a triumphant end to 30 years of intermittent war and a chance for hundreds of thousands of internal refugees to return home.
For neighbouring Armenia, the collapse of Karabakh is a national tragedy and humanitarian crisis, with almost all of the region’s 120,000 ethnic Armenians having since fled to Armenia.

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