Azerbaijan to hold snap presidential election on February 7, shortly before Russia’s vote #Azerbaijan #hold #snap #presidential #election #February #shortly #Russias #vote

President Ilham Aliyev has ordered Azerbaijan’s Central Election Commission to prepare for an early presidential election on Feb. 7, shortly ahead of Russia’s presidential election on March 17.

The order was published on the presidential website but did not explain why Aliyev had called an early vote. The next presidential election had been scheduled to be held in 2025.

Aliyev’s popularity in Azerbaijan has recently increased after the government took full control of the Karabakh region following a lightning rout of ethnic Armenian forces.

In November, he presided over a military parade through Khankendi, the capital of the Karabakh region, telling spectators that “we showed the whole world the strength, determination and indomitable spirit of the Azerbaijani people.”

Khankendi, which Armenians called Stepanakert, was the headquarters of the self-declared separatist government of Nagorno-Karabakh. The region and sizable surrounding territory came under control of ethnic Armenians in 1994 at the end of a separatist war.

But Azerbaijan regained parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and most of the surrounding territory in 2020 after a six-week war. That fighting ended with a Russia-brokered truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia that called for Russian peacekeeping forces to be deployed in the Khankendi area and to ensure open transit along a road connecting the city with Armenia.

However, Azerbaijan began blockading that road last winter, leading to severe food and medicine shortages in the Armenian-held area. Then in September it launched a blitz that forced the separatist forces to disband.

More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the region in the following days, leaving the city nearly deserted and under the control of Azerbaijan.

Russian lawmakers on Thursday set the date of their country’s presidential election for March 17.

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