In the past few weeks, first in Russia and then in Egypt, leaders have used so-called elections to provide a patina of legitimacy for their grip on power. Russian President Vladimir Putin secured yet another term with nearly 77 percent of the vote; Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did even better, nailing down 97 percent of the vote in Egypt. Neither of them deserved congratulations from Western leaders. In both cases, the outcome of the election was known well before voters went to the polls, as any serious opponents were prevented from running and the cards were solidly stacked in favor of the incumbents. These were not real elections in any sense of the term.
The same is about to happen in Azerbaijan on April 11, in an election moved up from the original date of Oct. 17. There, too, we already know that President Ilham Aliyev, who has been in power since 2003 after succeeding his father, is guaranteed another term. Azerbaijan’s election is so rigged that key opposition parties refused to take part and instead organized a mass protest on March 31. Among other demands, demonstrators called for the release of the more than 100 political prisoners in the country.
Aliyev’s Azerbaijan tends to be forgotten due to the West’s obsession with Putin’s Russia, but his regime is one of the most corrupt and authoritarian in the region. For years, during both Republican and Democratic administrations in the United States, Aliyev has been able to get away with such abuses. Unlike Putin’s Russia and Aleksandr Lukashenko’s Belarus, against which sanctions have been imposed for human rights abuses, Azerbaijan has escaped similar scrutiny from the United States and Europe. Nascent congressional efforts to pressure him, led by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), have never become law. Azerbaijan has avoided sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, too, which the Trump administration implemented for the first time last December.
Full Article: Azerbaijan’s Election Is a Farce – Foreign Policy.