The news of presidential elections being held 6 months earlier, on April 11, started a real analysis chaos both in mass media and social networks, as everybody tried to find the answer to why. Numerous analysts tried to explain it away, bringing forward such a large spectrum of reasons varying from significant dates to geopolitical problems. However, such abundance of answers and explanations is the very reason that adds to the confusion.
Let’s just try to carefully put everything in its place one by one in order to clear the situation.
Say we hold the elections in October, as they were planned to be, how likely is it that Ilham Aliyev would win them? Everyone, who is aware of the Azerbaijani reality, understands that such likelihood would be rather high. In does not matter whether the elections are held in April, July, October or December, we have no doubts that the current head of state would still end up winning in all cases.
When it comes to the assumptions on “catching the opposition off guard”, if the ratings of any potential oppositional candidate is stuck in the single digits in February, it is quite obvious that these candidates will not be able to become a real opponent for the current President, who by the way boasts a rather high rating score, in only six months until October. These things do not just happen. In other words, we can completely disregard the supposition that the election date is changed to fend off the opposition. They, the opposition, are certainly interested in circulating this theory, as this version is rather beneficial for them to portray themselves as an important factor: “See, the government is scared of us, so they decided to hold the elections earlier”. However, this assumption is no good in real analysis.
So, there must be an “X” factor between April and October. Is that why the elections are held at an earlier date? See, this is the political equation we have to solve. There is no doubt that the people, who made this decision, have serious information on the matter and they have taken this step based on it. We, on the other hand, do not have such information. Let’s just try to define what that “X” factor might be based on logical methods.
As we already said, this factor can in no way be connected to the opposition. Opposition in Azerbaijan has come to mean only a handful of Facebook bloggers, whose rating scores do not go beyond a thousand “likes” at best thanks to their boosted posts. This is not even a power, and the word “serious” is nowhere near to describe it.
President Ilham Aliyev has been frequently stressing during his speeches that there are no domestic threats that could breach stability in Azerbaijan. The possible threats can come from outside only. Theoretically, we could look into a version that some external powers had plans of stirring diversions or unrest on the eve of elections in Azerbaijan and the state management had intel about it. This can be only super-secret “service” information and all we can do is offer assumptions on it.
There is no point in hiding that there are quite a number of external powers, who would have loved to see the Azerbaijani government change. First of all, the current government performs a resolute and absolutely uncompromising position, which is not favorable for a lot of powers. We are witnessing such a complicated geopolitical situation that several great powers would prefer Azerbaijan to “soften” a bit when it comes to the Karabakh issue. But it is clear for everyone that this will not happen as long as Ilham Aliyev stays in power.
Ilham Aliyev has recently emphasized this in Davos: ‘Some believe that a country not so big, such as Azerbaijan, should not pursue a policy so independent.’ The head of Azerbaijani state is a politician who knows what and where to say and a professional diplomat. He never does anything just for the sake of the audience. His words voiced in Davos could possibly be a message of “We know what you are planning” addressed to certain circles.
On the other hand, it is also not excluded that the enemy state could have prepared plans of causing consecutive provocations at the front line as the elections draw nearer in Azerbaijan. Armenians do not hide the fact that they are looking for an opportunity to pay Azerbaijan back for the April fight. Scheduling this plot of revenge right on the eve of the elections could actually be a double blow for our country – both military and political. Because if there are any clashes of the same escalation as the April fights and dozens of our servicemen die, it is not difficult to imagine the implications it might have on the election process. So we do not exclude the possibility that the Armenians are indeed harboring such plan and we have intercepted intelligence on it. If it is so, holding the elections 6 months earlier would mean both breaching the plans of the enemy and rescuing human lives.
Of course, this decision could also have “peaceful” reasons behind it. For example, we can suppose that the President wants to hold the elections, “update” the government team and launch deeper reforms with a renewed team. So in order to “change horses on a crossroads”, he has thought to pass that crossroads as soon as possible. It sounds possible, but not very plausible: because these 6 months did not solve anything in such case and nothing would have changed should that process start 6 months later. In other words, there can be an unknown like this in this equation, but it is not the “X” we are looking for. Ilham Aliyev always acts patiently and calmly in such issues, just as the great leader Heydar Aliyev used to.
Thus, the most probable assumption in our opinion is that there is a rather serious “X” factor somewhere between April and October, and the elections have been drawn to an earlier date to neutralize that very factor. It not very likely that this factor has anything to do with the opposition or the situation inside the government team. A more credible version is that that “X” factor is connected to a threat directed at the security of our country. We do not know exactly what kind of threat that is due to lack of information, but we will probably find out when the due time comes. And the earlier date of the elections is most likely designed to eliminate that very threat.
Translated by Leyla Orujova