CEC chairman Mazahir Panahov

CEC chairman Mazahir Panahov

As the early presidential elections scheduled for February 7, 2024, loom on the horizon, Azerbaijan witnesses a roster of seven approved candidates vying for the highest office. The Signature Collection campaign is already underway, with candidates required to garner 40,000 signatures approved by the Central Election Commission (CEC) to secure their place in the electoral race.

In previous elections, claims of administrative resource exploitation by authorities to collect signatures for certain candidates and alleged hindrances for opposition figures have been contentious issues. Elman Nasirov, a member of the control and audit commission of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (PEA), rejected such allegations in an interview with Turan, saying that the decision to nominate President Ilham Aliyev was made by the party's board, and all the necessary documents were submitted to the CEC on December 16.

The Signature Collection campaign for President Ilham Aliyev, a ruling party candidate, is expected to proceed smoothly, according to Nasirov, given the president's high approval rating in the country. He emphasized that the president's focus in previous elections centered on ensuring the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, a mission now declared accomplished following the liberation of Karabakh.

Fazil Mustafa, a presidential candidate and chairman of the Great Renaissance Party, told the agency that the collection of signatures is effectively managed by regional organizations, adhering to the requirements of the law. Mustafa highlighted the specificity of these elections as they mark the first after the liberation of Karabakh, asserting a positive societal attitude towards the government despite potential social dissatisfactions.

The remaining five approved candidates include MP Zahid Oruj, MP Razi Nurullayev, Elshad Musayev (Chairman of the National Front party), Gudrat Hasanguliyev (Chairman of the Great Azerbaijan Party), and Fuad Aliyev (Chairman of the former Liberal Democratic Party). As of now, there have been no complaints about violations from their headquarters.

However, Bashir Suleimanli, head of the Institute of Civil Rights, expressed concern to Radio Azadlig about the lack of transparency in the election atmosphere, citing limited access to information and the declining role of surveillance institutions. Opposition parties such as Musavat and Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFPA) have refused to participate, citing a lack of minimum conditions for free and fair elections.

The sudden decision to hold early elections, accelerated compared to the planned date for 2025, caused controversy. Global changes were cited by MPs as the reasons for the accelerated elections, while opposition parties claim that the authorities are not ready for a competitive and civilized political struggle.

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