Snap presidential elections took place in Azerbaijan on Wednesday, marked by a high voter turnout nationwide.
The electoral process, the first in over three decades to be held across the entire territory of Azerbaijan, culminated in the re-election of President Ilham Aliyev.
Mazahir Panahov, the Central Election Committee’s (CEC) Chairman, announced on Wednesday that initial results showed Aliyev secured a landslide victory with 92.05 per cent of the votes, winning another term as the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Nearly 4.3 million bulletins were ticked in his favor, according to CEC data.
President-elect Aliyev and his family members cast their votes in Khankendi, the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Khankendi was freed from Armenian separatists and military formations in a one-day local anti-terror measures from September 19-20, 2023. In October, President Aliyev hoisted the state flag of Azerbaijan in the city.
The leaders of Türkiye, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Iran, Hungary, Serbia, Belarus, China, and Iraq congratulated president-elect Aliyev on Wednesday.
Snap presidential elections in Azerbaijan was announced upon the order signed by President Aliyev on December 7, 2023. Wednesday’s polls occurred one year earlier than the Constitutional termination of President Aliyev’s current term in 2025.
Talking to local TV channels in January, President Aliyev voiced several reasons for holding early presidential elections. The first, according to him, was the full restoration of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty.
“The elections mark the end of an era. In September, we concluded such an era, which was an epochal event. I think that there has been no similar Victory in the centuries-old history of Azerbaijan. Considering all the factors – political, military, the 30-year occupation, the natural terrain of the territory, the number of defense lines – I think that this is the most brilliant Victory of our people and state. Of course, when this new era begins, a presidential election should mark the beginning of this new era,” he said.
President Aliyev explained the second reason with the opportunity of holding an election across the entire territory of Azerbaijan.
“Since presidential elections are the most important elections compared to all others. I thought that the first elections to be held across the entire territory of our country should be the presidential elections. If we were to hold this election on time, i.e. in April 2025, then municipal elections would be the first to be held. I thought that would not be right. The presidential elections should be the first elections to be held in liberated territories and every part of our country,” he stated.
Wednesday’s polls saw the former IDPs, expelled by the Armenian forces in the First Karabakh War in 1991-1994 and resettled by the Azerbaijani government after the 44-day war of 2020, going for the polls in their native lands. More than 8,000 people, including those resettled in their homes, cast their votes in the liberated territories.
Armenia and Azerbaijan had been in an armed conflict for nearly 30 years over the Karabakh (Garabagh) region, which is an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. Armenia launched full-blown military aggression against Azerbaijan following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991. The bloody war lasted until a ceasefire in 1994 and resulted in Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and one million expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by Armenia.
On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict took a violent turn after Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counterattack that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated about 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30 years of illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020, by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
The liberation of Khankendi, Khojaly, as well as certain parts of the Khojavand and Tartar districts from illegal Armenian separatist regime occurred in the wake of successful anti-terror measures conducted by the Azerbaijan Armed Forces on September 19-20, 2023.