Regaining independence – development since 1991
On February 6, 1991, the state was renamed the Azerbaijan Republic. On August 30, 1991, Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence (formally enacted by parliament on October 18, 1991), and on December 21, 1991 it joined the CIS. The escalation of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the collapse of the USSR in 1991 undermined the position of Mutalibov , who resigned his presidency on March 6, 1992 under pressure from the opposition; government power was taken over by an interim state council. Mutalibov’s attempt to return to power on May 14, 1992 was prevented by mass demonstrations led by the Popular Front, whose chairman Abulfas Eltschibej (* 1938, † 2000)was elected President of the Republic on June 7, 1992. Azerbaijan’s participation in the CIS was reversed in October 1992, and in spring 1993 the Russian bases in Azerbaijan had to be evacuated; instead, a course of closer ties to Turkey was chosen. At the beginning of June 1993 armed forces marched from Gäncä to Baku under Surat Husseinow (* 1959). Elchibej fled the capital and the presidential power was handed over to G. Aliyev on June 24, 1993, who had already led the country under Soviet rule from 1969-82 as head of the Communist Party and who on October 3, 1993 in his presidency by election has been confirmed; he nominated Husseinow as Prime Minister (elected on June 30, 1993, deposed on October 6, 1994).
According to Abbreviationfinder, Azerbaijan rejoined the CIS as a full member on September 24, 1993, but insisted on its national sovereignty, especially in military (no bases) and economic (petroleum) issues. Through Russia’s mediation in the Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan, about 20% of whose territory was occupied by Armenian troops, concluded a ceasefire agreement with Armenia in May 1994; after that, the fighting largely came to a standstill for the time being. In October 1994 and March 1995 coup attempts against President Aliyev failed ; Found guilty of involvement, Husseinow was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 1999 (amnestied in 2004 at the urging of the Council of Europe).
The first parliamentary elections held since gaining independence on November 12, 1995 (criticized by UN and OSCE observers for discriminating against the opposition) were won by the party “New Azerbaijan” founded by Aliyev in 1992. In 1997 Elchibej (still leader of the Popular Front) returned to the capital and assumed a leading role in the opposition to Aliyev until his death in August 2000. In the presidential elections on October 11, 1998, boycotted by the opposition and overshadowed by irregularities, Aliyev became the incumbent confirmed with around 76% of the votes. Since the “treaty of the century” of September 1994, with which Azerbaijan opened the doors to international oil consortia, numerous development and extraction agreements have been concluded, for example with US corporations. On November 18, 1999, Azerbaijan agreed with Turkey and Georgia to build the longest oil pipeline from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean coast (start of construction with US support in September 2002, completion in 2005). On July 1, 1999, a partnership and cooperation agreement concluded with the EU came into force; On January 25, 2001, Azerbaijan became a member of the Council of Europe.
The parliamentary elections held on November 5, 2000 were again won by the ruling New Azerbaijan party. At the same time, the pressure on the opposition increased, and international election observers criticized election fraud (election re-election in some constituencies in January 2001). The authoritarian ruling President Aliyev had systematically built his son I. Aliyev as his successor since the late 1990s. In August 2003 he was elected Prime Minister by Parliament (on the recommendation of his father, who had gone abroad because of serious illness and died in the United States in December 2003).
With the victory of I. Aliyev, in the controversial presidential elections in October 2003, political succession in the highest office of a presidential republic took place for the first time in a post-Soviet state. The subsequent mass protests were suppressed (numerous opposition members were arrested). The attempt to consolidate the power of the new president was served by the expansion of the police regime (already established by his father) and the further cautious rapprochement with Russia, which became the target of strong labor migration from Azerbaijan. Increasing domestic political stagnation, a lack of economic and legal reforms in the country affected by enormous corruption, and the weakening of the political influence of the official opposition also caused resistance, motivated by Islam, to grow underground. Aliyev to further strengthen its domestic political position.
In the parliamentary elections on November 6, 2005 (again criticized by the opposition and international observers), the ruling party “New Azerbaijan” secured 58 of the 125 seats; only 10 seats went to the opposition, the rest to independent or pro-government candidates. Weeks-long protests (based on the Ukrainian example with orange flags and banners) were directed against the election results and the government. In June 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed at the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm to use the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan rented by Moscow instead of bases in Central Europe for the missile defense system planned by the USA in Europe. Although Azerbaijan officially supported the advance, it stood in opposition to the cautious policy of equalization with its southern neighbor Iran – against which the missile defense should be implicitly directed. During a visit to Baku, Iranian President M. Ahmadinejad assured that he was on the side of Azerbaijan in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which was claimed by Armenia. The ongoing oil and gas boom accelerated economic growth. The IMF urged the government to curb public spending and curb inflation. For Aliyev’s re-election not to jeopardize in 2008, however, spending on welfare programs was doubled compared to the previous year. An espionage affair among security personnel at Baku Airport in January 2008 and President Aliyev’s participation in the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008 put a strain on relations with Russia.
Aliyev won the presidential elections on October 15, 2008 with almost 89% of the votes cast against six opposing candidates; the voter turnout was given as 70%. The main opposition parties boycotted the elections and did not nominate a candidate. They also did not recognize the election result. The search for a balance of foreign policy interests was made more difficult by the changed geopolitical situation after the war in Georgia in 2008 and the intensified competition between the West and Russia for Azerbaijani energy resources. The rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia met with heavy criticism in Azerbaijan. The government called for progress in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a prerequisite for any normalization. In April 2009 she tried to put pressure on Turkey through a media campaign and street demonstrations.
Six months before the parliamentary elections on November 7, 2010, the government tightened the electoral law; i.a. the electoral campaign was cut from 75 to 60 days. As expected, the ruling party “New Azerbaijan” was able to expand its supremacy. According to the OSCE, the elections did not meet democratic standards. A meeting of the heads of state of Armenia and Azerbaijan on June 24, 2011 failed to defuse the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In October 2011, bloody clashes broke out again on the front line of the area controlled by Armenia. In 2011, Azerbaijan oriented itself more towards Europe: The resource-rich country took part in the EU neighborhood program “Eastern Partnership” and was also involved in planning pipeline systems for the transport of Caspian natural gas bypassing Russia. In March 2012 around 1,000 people demonstrated for democracy, human rights and the release of political prisoners; it was the first authorized demonstration in ten years. The 57th Eurovision Song Contest will be held on May 26th. 2012 in Baku was overshadowed by political discussions about how to deal with foreign policy in the authoritarian-ruled country.
On October 9, 2013, Aliyev was re-elected in controversial and internationally criticized elections with 84.5% of the votes. He continued to pursue a repressive course internally. At the end of July 2014, the prominent civil rights activist Leyla Yunus (* 1955) , head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Baku, together with her husband, inter alia. arrested on charges of treason and tax evasion. In August 2015, a court in Baku sentenced the civil rights activist to eight and a half years in prison and her husband to seven years in prison. The judgments were criticized by international observers as politically motivated. In December 2015, a court changed the prison sentence to a five-year suspended sentence. The first took place in Baku in June 2015 European Games take place.
According to the electoral commission, 55.7% of the electorate took part in the parliamentary elections on November 1, 2015, which were boycotted by parts of the opposition. The ruling party “New Azerbaijan” won 70 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly (2010: 72 seats). Due to government restrictions, the OSCE did not send any election observers. In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the ceasefire remained fragile. Again and again there were battles with numerous dead. Aliyev’s direct crisis talks with the Armenian President Sargsyan in October 2014 in Paris and in December 2015 in Bern remained without results. In April 2016, Nagorno-Karabakh saw the worst military clashes since the ceasefire of 1994. On September 26, 2016, over 91% of voters voted in a controversial referendum for constitutional amendments. the term of office of the President was extended from five to seven years and the office of First Vice-President was introduced. I. Aliyev appointed his wife Mehriban Aliyev (* 1964) to this office on February 21, 2017, which various observers suggested as a means of further securing the rule of Aliyev Family clan. In early presidential elections on April 11, 2018, which were accompanied by numerous irregularities, I. Aliyev was confirmed in office with 86.3% of the votes.