Same old, same old in Azerbaijan's snap presidential election
What is new, however, is the conduct of elections in Karabakh, including in its abandoned former de facto capital, where President Aliyev cast his vote.
Azerbaijan's presidential election on February 7 is on track to yield an entirely predictable result - incumbent Ilham Aliyev's resounding victory over a set of fake challengers.
According to exit poll results carried by state TV, Aliyev, who has led the country since 2003, had the support of 92.4 percent of voters.
Also predictable was the widespread evidence of fraud at dozens of polling stations under the same old methods.
One such method is carousel voting - the same voters being allowed to vote at multiple polling stations. Footage today captured the same people appearing and voting at different polling places in the capital Baku.
Another method, ballot stuffing, was captured by CCTV. In two pieces of footage, members of precinct electoral commissions are seen stuffing multiple ballots into the ballot boxes.
Cameras installed at polling stations are meant to allow the public to observe the election on the website of the Central Election Commission (CEC). But they were installed only at about 1,000 of the total 6,300 polling stations across the country.
Journalists on the ground also reported problems with access to the internet in and around the polling places.
According to the CEC, nearly 71 percent voter turnout was observed as of 5 pm, which is more than 4.5 million people. It's an improbable figure given that the winner was a foregone conclusion, public engagement was low, and the campaign was arguably the boringest in the country's history.
What was new in this election is the fact that for the first time ever, Azerbaijan held elections in its newly retaken territories in Karabakh. Some of those areas were regained as a result of the war against Armenia in 2020 and have been partially settled by Azerbaijanis expelled from there in the 1990s (and their descendants). And some were retaken last September as the Azerbaijani military seized the remainder of the region, leading the entire Armenian population to flee. This area includes the abandoned town of Khankandi, where President Aliyev and his family cast their votes. For over three decades the town, known to Armenians as Stepanakert, was the de facto capital of the now-defunct Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
"This political campaign is also historic because it is happening, for the first time in the history of national statehood, after the liberation of Karabakh from occupation," the prominent news agency Report.az said in an editorial. "This is a very important step in terms of statehood. By conducting an important political campaign in the territories freed from occupation, the president once again demonstrated that the Constitution of Azerbaijan has been restored in the region. This is also a message to those who want to provoke Azerbaijan recently. The president also proved that the safety of the residents relocated to the region is ensured."
As of around 9:30 pm local time, the CEC has yet to announce its preliminary results.
Aliyev has already received congratulations from fellow authoritarian rulers Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Viktor Orban of Hungary.
If the exit poll result holds, Aliyev will win re-election by his biggest landslide yet. Up to now, his best result has been 89 percent in 2008.