Short for AZ by Abbreviationfinder, Azerbaijan is a democracy, but in practice the country is a hard dictatorship. The president has the opportunity to be re-elected for as long as he lives, and Parliament has weak influence. The opposition has a hard time making itself heard and can basically only act extra-parliamentary, even with very great difficulties.
Ilham Aliyev (Azerbaijani spelling Əliyev) has been president since 2003, when he assumed power after his father Heydar Aliyev (Heydər Əliyev) through an election that was almost a formality.
The current constitution was created in 1995 and describes Azerbaijan as a democratic and secular (non-religious) state. Through a series of amendments and additions to the Constitution, the power of the President has been strengthened.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of Azerbaijan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
In practice, the president has dictatorial power. In addition to being head of state and commander-in-chief, the president appoints the prime minister and other ministers, who are responsible to the president. It is also the President who appoints the members of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the President has the right to dissolve Parliament and announce new elections at his own will.
The president is elected in general elections for a term of seven years and can be elected as many times as he can.
Parliament, milli majlis (məclis), has 125 members in one chamber. The members are elected for a period of five years by majority vote in one-man constituencies. Parliament has played a stealth role, although in theory it can initiate a judicial process against the president and issue a statement of no confidence in the government.
None of the elections that took place in Azerbaijan in modern times have been accepted internationally as free and honorable. Voting participation is usually low; only about half of all voters find it worthwhile to vote.
Administratively, Azerbaijan is divided into 59 districts and 11 cities, distributed across nine economic regions. In addition, the Autonomous Republic of Nachichevan (Naxçıvan), which is separated from Azerbaijan and sandwiched between Armenia and Iran. Nachichevan has his own parliament that appoints a local government and also has some financial decision-making power. Administratively, Nachichevan consists of seven districts and one urban area. The number of residents is around 400,000 (more than Malmö but fewer than Gothenburg).
Just under one-sixth (15 percent) of Azerbaijan’s land area is occupied by Armenian troops and is out of government control. This includes the Nagorno-Karabakh mountain range (read more in Modern History).
The party system in Azerbaijan is poorly developed. Many parties have as their main purpose to bring their leader to power. This applies not least to Ilham Aliyev’s support party New Azerbaijan (Yeni Azərbaycan Partiyası, YAP). The party is dominated by some of the former communist elite, with an inner circle from the family of Aliyev’s home province of Nachichevan. State and municipal employees are under pressure to join the party if they want to make a good career.
Since the 2010 elections, New Azerbaijan’s power party has in principle total control of Parliament with the help of partisan candidates who support Aliyev.
The support for Aliyev is widespread and to some extent has its basis in the economic development that over the last twenty years has led to a gradual raising of the standard of living for the majority of residents. Aliyev is seen as a guarantee that this development will continue. At the same time, the regime’s systematic persecution of regime critics and firm grip on the media has led the opposition to remain weak and marginalized. Political opponents of Aliyev find it difficult to get a meeting permit and are basically excluded from the main news media, TV.
In addition to the ruling party, there are 11 small parties in parliament, but the main opposition parties, the People’s Front (Azərbaycan Xalq Cəbhəsi Partiyası, AXCP) and the Equality Party (Müsavat Partiyası), stepped out of parliament in 2010 and failed to overcome the block in the last election.
The Front of the People was formed in 1989 by Abulfaz Eltjibej (übülf Elz Elçibey), who was president for one year from 1992. Since the death of Eltjibej in 2000, the front was divided. Its largest faction under Ali Karimli (Əli Kərimli) has, so far without success, tried one opposition to the Aliyev regime.
The Equality Party has its roots in the party that ruled Azerbaijan in 1918-1920. When the Red Army recaptured the country, the members went underground or in flight. Some party members were in the People’s Front before Müsavat re-emerged in 1993.
A new attempt to form a broad opposition alliance to challenge the regime was made in May 2013, when some twenty parties joined the National Council of Democratic Forces (Democracy Qüvvälärin Milli Şurası, DQMS), with author Rustam Ibragimbekov (Rüstəm İbrahimbə). The National Council included, among others, Müsavat and the People’s Front. After the National Council candidate lost to Aliyev in the 2013 presidential election, Müsavat left the alliance.
An example of how the opposition is being resisted is Ilgar Mammadov (İlqar Məmmədov), leader of the Alternative Republican Party (Respublikaçı Alternative Partiyası) who was arrested before the 2013 presidential election and put in prison.
On the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and its attitude to Armenia, leading opposition parties appear to agree broadly with the regime not to compromise with the Armenian side.
Imprisoned bloggers are released
The two bloggers sentenced in 2009 to two and a half years in prison for hooliganism are released. What they really fell for was regime-critical satire on the internet.
Mild criminal charges against journalist
Imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fətullayev gets a part of the indictment brought against him. The Supreme Court dismisses the charges of incitement to terrorism and ethnic animosity, however, a July 2010 sentence remains on two and a half years in prison for drug possession.
Cheating without real opposition
In the parliamentary elections, New Azerbaijan’s power party rises to 72 out of Parliament’s 125 seats. Other mandates also go to parties and candidates loyal to the regime. No real opposition parties manage to get elected. According to the opposition, electoral fraud occurs on a large scale. Election observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe give a similar picture.
Prior criticism before general elections
Ahead of the parliamentary elections later that year, Human Rights Watch accuses the Aliyev regime of preventing free elections through violence and threats against opposition journalists, many of whom have been sentenced to prison.
Obama demands freedom for bloggers
President Aliyev visits the United States, where President Barack Obama urges him to release the imprisoned blogs Hacızade and Milli.
Court demands on journalist release
The European Court of Justice states that imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fətullayev must be released and awarded damages, as he has been deprived of his freedom of expression and has not received a fair trial. In 2007, he was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for, among other things, incitement to terrorist offenses and ethnic animosity, in his own opinion as revenge for criticizing the authorities in his articles.