BAKU—Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev called snap presidential elections for April 11, six months ahead of a scheduled vote in October. The surprise move angered opposition forces in Azerbaijan.
Accodring to Bloomberg, Aliyev, who’s been in office since 2003, offered no explanation in a decree announcing the decision on Monday. The election was previously slated for Oct. 17. The ruling New Azerbaijan Party, known as YAP, earlier said it would nominate Aliyev for the presidency again, potentially extending his rule to 2025.
The vote will be the first to take place since a September 2016 referendum called by Aliyev that expanded his powers and extended the presidential term to seven years from five. Aliyev succeeded his father, Heydar, who ruled independent Azerbaijan for a decade until his death in 2003.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has criticized past elections in the oil-rich country as falling short of democratic standards. The Azeri government has rejected claims of vote rigging, reported Bloomberg.
In an interview with the state news agency, Azertac, Aliyev’s aide Ali Hasanov said that the election was moved to accommodate what he called “important domestic and international events” later in the year.
Ali Karimli, head of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, an opposition party, told the Turan news agency that that Aliyev’s desire to seek a fourth term in office is “unacceptable.”
“The father and son Aliyevs have been leading the country for 45 years, which contradicts the principles of a republic. Ilham Aliyev knew that the opposition was planning to have long term campaigns against electoral fraud, and he called for snap elections to deprive the opposition from the opportunity of protesting and demanding transparent and democratic elections,” Karimli told Turan.