Seven Baku rules - How (not) to have elections

7 February 2024
Citizen Ilham votes in presidential elections 2018
Citizen Ilham votes in presidential elections 2018

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Different kinds of elections

There are competitive and fair elections, like the parliamentary elections that took place in the Netherlands in November 2023, where some 10.5 million went to the poll.

There are competitive and unfair elections, like the parliamentary and local elections that took place in Serbia in December 2023, where some 3.5 million people went to the polls. There, international election observers concluded that "the ruling party's systemic advantages created unjust conditions."

There are competitive elections for life, like those of a pope. A conclave, where the college of cardinals gathers, votes in secret until there is a winner. The number of participants in the last election was 115. Once chosen by a two-thirds majority, a pope does not need to win re-election.

And then there are presidential elections in Azerbaijan. These are uncompetitive. Although a presidential term in Azerbaijan is seven years, the experience of elections since 1993 suggests that once a president is elected, it is de facto for life.

Today, on 7 February 2024, presidential elections are taking place in Azerbaijan. People are going to the polls across the country, elections observers from all over the world observe, and in the end the results will be announced. As we write this short guide to the elections and their result, the outcome has not been announced yet. As you read this, it will have been. Elsewhere, this would be inconvenient. Not here.

We write this text before the results of the presidential elections are known and venture a guess: Ilham Aliyev, the incumbent, is likely to win re-re-election with more than 80 percent of the vote. Other candidates are likely to each gain between 1 and 3 percent. This, at least, is what the "Baku rules for presidential elections" would suggest.

We identified seven such rules, based on recent experiences, to interpret events today in Azerbaijan. Let us look at them one by one.