Third Term a Given. Ilham Aliyev Becomes President of Azerbaijan for , Russia
Oct 9 2013

Third Term a Given. Ilham Aliyev Becomes President of Azerbaijan for Third Time

by Aleksandr Braterskiy

Ilham Aliyev has been reelected to the post of president of Azerbaijan
for the third time. According to experts, Aliyev will continue his
previous political course, although external and domestic factors may
force him to make changes inside the country. According to the
opposition, the election took place in conditions of “total

As expected, Ilham Aliyev – the son of Heydar Aliyev, former TsK CPSU
[Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union] member
and late president of Azerbaijan – won a landslide victory in the
election with 83 per cent of the vote according to exit polls
conducted by the pro-government polling organization Prognoz.
According to the same data, his closest opponent, oppositionist Jamil
Hasanli representing the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF),
received 8.2 per cent. Another candidate, Iqbal Aghazade, garnered 2
per cent. The remaining six candidates were unable to garner more than
1 per cent of the vote. According to data from the Independent
Research Centre ELS, Ilham Aliyev collected 80.8 per cent of the vote,
Jamil Hasanli – 10.5 per cent. Azerbaijan does not have a threshold
for voter turnout – elections are considered valid regardless of the
number of voters.

According to Vagif Guseynov, director of the Centre for Strategic
Assessment and Analysis and the former head of the Azerbaijani KGB,
“significant changes” in the country’s foreign policy should not be
expected from the newly elected president: “For global and regional
powers, the country’s current President Ilham Aliyev is a guarantor of
stability in Azerbaijan, and they do not need anything more,” Guseynov

For his part, Khikmet Gadzhizade, former Azerbaijani ambassador to
Russia and a political expert and publicist, noted that the
Azerbaijani president has found a golden mean in relations with Russia
and the West: “Relations with Russia are fine, although there is no
rapprochement, there is also no rapprochement with the West, although
they do keep their money there,” the expert describes the mood of
Azerbaijan’s elite.

Monitoring Through “Friendly Eyes”

Russia – which in the post-Soviet space maintains relations of
alliance with Armenia, Azerbaijan’s opponent – is interested in Aliyev
continuing to be in power as a compromise figure, Konstantin Zatulin,
director of the Institute of CIS countries, told

“Aliyev is not our closest ally, however, he is accommodating and
takes Moscow’s interests into account,” Zatulin noted.

In August, Russian President Putin visited Azerbaijan. “Regardless of
the Russian president’s recent visit to Azerbaijan, relations between
the two countries are built around energy security and relations with
Armenia, and these two problems are not easily solved,” Theodore
Karasik, leading analyst at the INEGMA military and political analysis
centre in Dubai, told According to the expert, the two
sides may fail to “reach an understanding” on these two issues.

Regardless of the fact that Azerbaijan and Russia are distancing
themselves from each other politically, this summer Russia began
large-scale arms supplies to Azerbaijan worth almost USD 1 billion,
which drew a negative reaction from Armenia, where a Russian army base
is located.

For its part, Moscow, which has a significant Azeri diaspora, is
demonstrating a friendly attitude towards Aliyev at election time. On
Tuesday [8 October], Leyla Aliyeva, Aliyev’s daughter and deputy head
of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, received an award from the Russian
Orthodox Church for strengthening the friendship between the two
countries, ITAR TASS reports. Aliyeva is permanently resident in

Sergey Lebedev, head of the CIS observer mission, noted in an
interview with the agency that his colleagues are looking at the
election in Azerbaijan through “friendly eyes,” in contrast to
representatives of the West.

“He Suppressed and Stifled Everyone”

Members of the Azerbaijani opposition have already called the
country’s presidential election “the dirtiest” in the history of an
independent Azerbaijan.

In a statement published on the Turan agency’s website, Isa Gambar,
leader of the opposition Musavat movement, said that the presidential
election had taken place in conditions of “total falsification.” Among
the most typical violations the oppositionists noted the use of
“carousels,” ballot stuffing, as well as administrative resources.

Experts note that the tough pressure on members of the opposition by
the authorities does not allow an opportunity for the emergence of a
prominent opposition figure in Azerbaijan who would be able to take on
the country’s president.

Former Ambassador Gadzhizade characterizes Aliyev’s actions as “he
suppressed everyone, he stifled everyone,” and believes that the main
source of all of the country’s problems is “the pyramid of

“Reforms are needed, and in order to carry them out you need to either
be Deng Xiaoping or Peter the Great – I do not see such qualities in
our president,” believes Gadzhizade. In his opinion, the authorities
have a chance to begin political reforms by allowing the opposition to
take part in the parliamentary election, which is scheduled to take
place in two years’ time.

Zatulin, head of the Institute of CIS Countries, says that alongside
the tough authoritarian policies, the authorities are also using the
patriotic feelings of many Azeris who support the authorities’ actions
in relation to ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“So far, Aliyev has not made a single mistake,” Zatulin notes; he
believes that the Azerbaijani regime can be replaced either as a
result of large-scale destabilization, or tough pressure from the
outside, which external players, including the United States, are not
interested in at the moment.

“The United States supports Azerbaijan’s independence but not
democracy in Azerbaijan,” says former diplomat Gadzhizade.

According to him, the United States could reconsider its relations
with Azerbaijan if an American rapprochement with Iran begins and
Azerbaijan loses its significance in the region as an ally of the
United States, Gadzhizade thinks.

For Guseynov, director of the Centre for Strategic Assessment and
Analysis, an internal destabilization of the situation in the country
seems more realistic because of the authorities’ pressure on the legal
opposition, which “could in the end lead to the activation of marginal
forces, including Islamists”: “Ideologies of this kind are very hardy
and take over the minds of destitute Muslims in a short space of

[Translated from Russian]