On July 2nd, it was announced that Azerbaijan’s opposition groups have united to nominate a single candidate for the upcoming Presidential elections in October. At a session of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) Rustam Ibragimbekov (74) was chosen to represent the opposition in the presidential race. If elected, the candidate said he will stay in office for only two years.
During that period, the NCDF would establish a ‘government of national trust’, to implement constitutional and electoral reforms, including a decrease of the power of the President, widening of the responsibilities of the Parliament, and establishing an independent judiciary system.
Ibragimbekov will challenge incumbent President Illham Aliyev, who was nominated by the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) as its candidate in June.
Aliyev has held power since 2003, after succeeding his father Heydar Aliyev.
Aliyev’s third bid for the nation’s Presidency is, although constitutional, also controversial. In 2009 a constitutional amendment made it possible for Aliyev to serve ad infinitum. In the tightly controlled environment, Aliyev is widely expected to win the election, although Ibragimbekov represents an unexpected challenge. Azeris are proud of Ibragimbekov, who co-wrote the 1994 Academy Award-winning best foreign language film "Burnt by the Sun" with Nikita Mikhalkov. But while he will likely win protest votes, analysts said it would not be enough to topple Aliyev.
On June 21 rumors mounted that Aliyev’s wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, also aspires the top political post in the country, after the Democratic Azerbaijan World Party (DAWP) nominated her for the presidency. Later the party distanced itself from the endorsement, claiming it was the work of a splinter faction in the group.
Aliyeva, coming from one of the most powerful families in the country and having her own powerful political career as well as strong ties with the intellectual elite, would be a powerful challenge to Ibragimbekov’s bid to the presidency and is by some seen as a welcome alternative to her husband. The YAP denies any suggestions that Aliyeva is being prepared to replace her husband.
Thus far, it is widely expected that Aliyev will win the Presidential elections in October this year.