It is 19:30 in Baku, Azerbaijani capital city. The polls are closed and Azerbaijanis have only few hours to wait for the results to find out who will lead the country for the next 5-year term. However, only few had their doubts, while almost everyone in the country expects the incumbent President Ilham Aliyev to win – again. The exit poll, which was conducted by number of independent polling agencies, shows Ilham Aliyev winning today’s election with nearly 84 percent of the vote while the main opposition candidate, historian Jamil Hasanli, is trailing behind with about 8 percent, followed by eight other contenders.
Such outcome is not a surprise – approval rating of Ilham Aliyev was off the chart. However, building in less than a generation a modern, secular and democratic nation, from the ruins of seven decades under soviet rule was not an easy task. Even so, what everyone, who visits Azerbaijani capital and the regions sees a harmonious, tolerant, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, an emerging powerhouse that serves as the socio-political and economic conduit between Europe and Asia. From outside Azerbaijan viewed as a strategic partner in the south Caucasus, including NATO that counts on Azerbaijan’s east-west corridor to deliver about 30% of the coalition’s supplies bound for Afghanistan.
Although some may see Azerbaijan’s journey towards genuine democracy as some years away, Azerbaijan achieving rapid economic growth after a hard transition process. Today Azerbaijan holds 39th place among 148 economies of the world in Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum, reflecting many factors, including the poverty rate that has fallen from 50% in 2001 to 6% now.
No doubt, that free and fair election is a cornerstone of all forms of democracy. And this year’s elections showed that Azerbaijanis take a great pride in their input in the governance. The outcome will matter. At stake is the continuing economic growth and socio-political security that has placed Azerbaijan in the global mainstream. With this in mind every single Azerbaijani I’ve talked to were committed to do everything possible to make sure that today’s elections are transparent, free and fair.
And this is what happened – people voted. Nation voted. To paraphrase the great 1936 speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt, I want to say, that “every man and every woman who has voted in the past has had a hand in the making of Azerbaijan of the present. Every man and woman who voted today had a hand in the making of Azerbaijan of the future.” Congratulations, Azerbaijan!