The Azerbaijani regime under İlham Aliyev (Əliyev)
remains extremely authoritarian and shows no signs of
softening, despite repeated protests from a number of
international organizations. After a fiercely criticized
parliamentary election in 2015, the regime has continued
to imprison opposition and silent critical media.
İlham Aliyev took over the presidency after his
father Heydar in 2003 and has been re-elected in 2008,
2013 and 2018. None of the elections that took place in
Azerbaijan since Aliyev came to power in 2003 have been
internationally approved as free and honorable. The new
parliamentary elections held in February 2020 reinforced
President Aliyev's party's strong position in
Parliament, but were boycotted by many opposition
parties and criticized by international observers (see
Country facts and history of Azerbaijan, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Like his father, İlham Aliyev leads the country with
an authoritarian hand. The opposition has very limited
opportunities to reach out with its messages, since the
media is controlled by the state apparatus. In public
protests against political repression or, for example,
manipulated election results, the police always strike
hard and resolute and many people are arrested.
The 2015 election was preceded by such a harsh
political climate that the European Security and
Cooperation Organization (OSCE) found no sense in
sending any observers, since it was clear that they
would not have been able to carry out their mission
properly. All major opposition parties boycotted the
election, which, as usual, ended with a big victory for
the presidential support party of New Azerbaijan.
Formally, the party gained just over half of the seats,
but in practice the government maintained the same total
control over Parliament as it had since 2010, as all
remaining mandates were allocated to small parties or
individuals who were all more or less loyal to the
Following the 2015 parliamentary elections, the
systematic arrests and detention of human rights
activists, opposition politicians, journalists and
bloggers have continued. However, several long prison
sentences have, after a while, been shortened and
converted into conditional sentences. Since the regime
has full control over the judiciary, it manages the
prison judges as part of a frightening propaganda and
political markings. No relief from the repression did
not mean the releases, as the UN Human Rights Reporter
noted in a report describing conditions in the country
as the most difficult since independence in 1991.
Basic changes favor Alijev
In September 2016, the president's already firm hold
on power was strengthened through a series of
constitutional amendments approved in a referendum. The
Azerbaijanis, among other things, agreed to extend the
president's term of office to seven years, introduce a
new post as vice president with great influence, give
the president the right to announce new elections and
dissolve parliament. According to the proposal, the
minimum age for a presidential candidate would be
lowered to 35 years, which prompted one of the
president's three children to eventually succeed him.
A month after the referendum, Parliament adopted a
law that made it criminal to insult the president on the
internet. Defamation on the internet was already
prohibited, but previously no insult to the President
had been mentioned explicitly.
In February 2017, Aliyev appointed his wife as first
vice president. "She is professional, well-educated,
experienced, principled and magnificent," the president
motivated the appointment. Opposition leader Isa Gambar
made another assessment with the comment: "This throws
Azerbaijan back to the medieval feudal empire."
The President and his wife have lifelong legal
immunity from all possible charges for such actions
during their term of office. İlham Aliyev has often been
accused of exploiting his power to build up a large
personal wealth. He has been identified as probably one
of the most corrupt leaders in the world, with ownership
interests in most profitable Azerbaijani companies.
The widespread corruption within Azerbaijan's power
elite was exposed in 2017 in a major investigation by an
international network of burgeoning journalists. It
described how billions of euros were spent on bribing
European politicians, lobbyists, journalists and
Domestic Islamic groups are regarded with suspicion.
In 2015, the police conducted a raid on the village of
Nardaran outside Baku where several Islamist groups base
their lives. Six people were killed when police arrested
members of the Muslim Unity Movement who do not have
permission to operate. The deaths triggered widespread
protests. The arrested were arrested for planning to
overthrow the government in cooperation with Iran.
A headache for Azerbaijan, as well as for neighboring
states, is the growing number of domestic Islamists who
fought for the Islamic State extremist Islamist group in
Syria and who have now begun to return home with the
mission to carry out attacks on "the unfaithful".
There is also concern that the radical uprising
against the Russian central power that is ongoing in
neighboring Russian Dagestan should spread to
FACTS - POLITICS
Azərbaycan Respublikası / Republic of Azerbaijan
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President İlham Aliyev (Əliyev) (2003–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Ali Asadov (2019–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
New Azerbaijan 70, Other and Independent 55 (2015)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
New Azerbaijan 72, Civic Solidarity Party 3, Parent
Party 2, Partisan 48 (2010)
55.7% in the 2015 general election, 74.5% in the 2018
presidential elections 2025, parliamentary elections
MR activist is beaten
Civil rights activist İlgar Nasibov is being abused by government supporters
at a seminar on corruption at the University of Nachichevan.
Bloggers are imprisoned for sweeping reasons
The two bloggers are sentenced to two and a half years in prison, formally
for mistreatment in a pub quarrel they are believed to have been provoked.
Bloggers seized for satire
Two bloggers, Adnan Hacızade and Emin Milli, have been arrested since
publishing a regime-critical satire. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt visits
Azerbaijan as a representative of the EU's country of presidency and protests
with President Aliyev against the arrests.
Great support for controversial constitutional changes
A referendum is held on several constitutional amendments. Among other
things, the president must be able to be re-elected an unlimited number of
times, departed presidents are guaranteed a number of privileges and in wartime
no general elections should be made. More than 90 percent of voters are said to
agree to the changes. According to the authorities, turnout is over 70 percent,
but according to the opposition only 15 percent. It also circulates a lot of
information about cheating. According to the Council of Europe, the
constitutional changes contravene the rules of the organization.
Opposition is apprehended before a referendum
Several prominent members of the opposition parties Müsavat and the People's
Front are arrested as they try to organize protests against the referendum to be
held in March.