Why were the extraordinary presidential elections suddenly announced?

In a surprising turn of events, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on December 7, announcing early presidential elections set to take place on February 7, 2024. The unexpected move has sparked speculation and various interpretations, prompting political analysts to dissect the possible motives behind this decision.

The decree, issued by President Aliyev, directs the Central Election Commission to organize the early elections in accordance with the established procedures outlined in the Electoral Code. The move is particularly noteworthy as the last presidential elections in Azerbaijan occurred on April 11, 2018.

Igbal Aghazade, chairman of the Umid party, offered his perspective on the matter during a segment of the program "Difficult Question." Aghazade postulates that the announcement may be connected to anticipated shifts in South Caucasian politics, particularly in neighboring Armenia.

Aghazade suggests that early elections in Armenia could result in Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan relinquishing power. Drawing parallels with Georgia's political evolution after Mikheil Saakashvili, Aghazade speculates that a new leader in Armenia might seek to recalibrate Russia's position in the South Caucasus. This realignment, exemplified by Georgia's policy shift under Ivanishvili and Zurabishvili, aims for a balanced approach between Russia and the European Union.

The political analyst, however, warns of potential repercussions for Azerbaijan. If Armenia aligns more closely with Russia, it could lead to demands from Moscow, potentially affecting Azerbaijan's geopolitical landscape. These demands could include concessions in border issues, and revisiting the delicate question of Karabakh.

Aghazade suggests that the Azerbaijani government may have opted for early elections to pre-empt external pressures during this sensitive period. Elections, historically vulnerable to external influence, become an opportune moment for pressure tactics. By fast-tracking the electoral process, Azerbaijan may seek to bolster its resilience against external forces attempting to exploit democratic vulnerabilities.

Moreover, Aghazade introduces an alternative scenario: Azerbaijan's authorities may be aiming to conduct elections across the entirety of the country for the first time since gaining independence. This move, he argues, could represent a strategic shift and an assertion of Azerbaijan's commitment to democratic processes.

With the recent conclusion of the 44-day war and a one-day operation in Karabakh, Azerbaijan's leadership may be positioning itself to counter potential criticisms from the West. Aghazade suggests that by holding democratic elections and addressing concerns about democratic freedoms, human rights, and electoral fairness, the Azerbaijani authorities aim to navigate the evolving geopolitical landscape with greater flexibility and resilience.

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