Azerbaijan’s president on Monday called a snap presidential election in the ex-Soviet nation.
Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation since 2003, was to seek re-election in October, but his office announced that the president ordered an early election to be held on April 11.
Azerbaijan’s constitution was amended at a referendum in 2016 to extend the presidential term from five to seven years. Aliyev’s critics saw the referendum as effectively cementing a dynastic rule.
The 56-year old Aliyev, in office since succeeding his father, who died in 2003, has firmly allied the Shia Muslim nation with the West, helping secure its energy and security interests and offset Russia’s influence in the strategic Caspian region.
At the same time, his government has long faced criticism in the West for alleged human rights abuses and suppression of dissent.
Aliyev’s political adviser, Ali Hasanov, said that it was decided to call the early presidential vote because the country in the fall would be busy with various high-profile events.
Natiq Jafarli of the opposition ReAL movement alleged that the government decided to move the vote up to avoid the next presidential vote in 2025 coming at the same time as the parliamentary election.