Ilham Aliyev: Exit polls show Azerbaijan President heading for landslide re-election win

Aliyev said he called the snap poll to mark 'the start of a new era' in Azerbaijan

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Exit polls on Wednesday showed Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on course for a landslide re-election win in a vote he called early after recapturing the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia and a crackdown on the media.

Among the 63,000 people polled by Oracle Advisory Group, Mr Aliyev was set to win with 93.9 per cent of the vote. Preliminary initial results were expected later on Wednesday.

After succeeding his father Heydar as president in 2003, Mr Aliyev has typically taken more than 85 per cent of the vote in elections that rights groups have said are neither free nor fair.

Azerbaijani officials say the elections are fair and transparent, and that Mr Aliyev's popularity has increased since victory in Karabakh.

The two main opposition parties are boycotting the poll in the oil and gas-producing state, which will host the United Nations Cop29 climate talks in November.

The country's energy resources are central to Europe's plans to reduce its dependency on Russian gas following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Baku, a close ally of Turkey which also maintains working relations with Russia, attributes western criticism to prejudice against its mainly Muslim population.

President Sheikh Mohamed visits Azerbaijan – video

President Sheikh Mohamed visits Azerbaijan

President Sheikh Mohamed visits Azerbaijan

In January, Mr Aliyev, 62, told local media that he had called the snap poll to mark “the start of a new era” in Azerbaijan, which he said had restored its sovereignty by retaking Karabakh. He faced six nominal rivals, none of them critical of his rule.

A series of independent journalists have been arrested since November in a crackdown on dissent, several of them charged with crimes including smuggling.

International press freedom groups have described the arrests as an attempt to silence anti-corruption reporting.

In December Mr Aliyev moved the election from October 2025, shortly after Azerbaijan retook Karabakh, an Azerbaijani region whose mostly ethnic Armenian population had been de facto independent of Baku since the early 1990s.

As the Soviet Union unravelled, Azerbaijan lost an extended war with Armenia over Karabakh, a humiliating defeat which Mr Aliyev worked to reverse.

In September, he said that his “iron fist” had consigned the idea of an independent Karabakh to history.

For Azerbaijan, restoration of control over Karabakh marks a triumphant end to 30 years of intermittent war and a chance for hundreds of thousands of internal refugees to return home.

For neighbouring Armenia, the collapse of Karabakh is a national tragedy and humanitarian crisis, with almost all of the region's 120,000 ethnic Armenians having since fled to Armenia.

Updated: February 14, 2024, 12:39 PM