Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is expected to win another term in office on Wednesday, while the opposition has boycotted the polls as usual and is even more divided than before.
Opinion polls say the president, who has been in power since 2003, will get 80 percent of votes in the oil-rich country, located on the banks of the Caspian Sea.
In the last election back in 2013, Ilham Aliyev won 85 percent of the votes and later changed the country’s constitution by increasing the presidential term from five years to seven years, a move denounced by the opposition.
Opposition parties in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan’s opposition has a problem in that it is much divided, weak and does not have the confidence of the people. There is a lack of vision in the opposition and it has no leader who can face the country’s challenges, like the frozen conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the resulting refugee crisis.
Nagorno-Karabakh in western Azerbaijan has been occupied by Armenia and both countries have been involved in cross border firing and skirmishes. With such challenges on its doorstep, a weak leadership in Azerbaijan could endanger the country’s territorial integrity.
Located in the South Caucasus and bordered by Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran, Azerbaijan has an oil-driven economy and high geopolitical importance in the region.
A huge influx of refugees who fled from Nagorno-Karabakh and settled in the capital Baku and surrounding areas has been a big challenge, but the incumbent government managed to resettle one million migrants.
Meanwhile, Baku, with its fascinating mix of modern and old infrastructure, leaves no doubt that the current leadership has delivered on its promises for the development of the country.
Western so-called democracies have repeatedly criticized President Aliyev’s influence and power in the country.
But interestingly they let Baku hold the first European Games in 2015, even though it is not a member of the European Union.
It’s difficult to understand Western double standards in this case.
Ilham Aliyev launched a massive anti-corruption campaign and cracked down on corrupt officials and ministries in his recent term.
He carried out reforms to the social services by launching ASAN, a state agency aimed at making government services more accessible to citizens using modern technology.
He also pulled the country out of a severe economic crisis by devaluing the currency after the massive slump in the global oil market, then opened the country to tourism, making it a popular destination for visitors from the Middle East and Asia.
Azerbaijan’s links to China were demonstrated when Baku recently inaugurated the Trans-Caspian Transit Corridor (TCTC), which is part of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.
Under these circumstances, the people of Azerbaijan have no other option but to reelect Ilham Aliyev as their next president. He is a much stronger and visionary leader who can play well on all international diplomatic fronts.