Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Re-Election Eve for President Aliyev

In just a little while, polls will open in Azerbaijan for an election that incumbent President Ilham Aliyev will win. Five years ago, I was in Baku for the 2008 election and my election eve observations are essentially unchanged from that time. The questions that will be interesting to resolve are:

1) What will be the level of recorded turnout (as well as its temporal and spatial distribution)?
2) How will results vary spatially for the losing candidates?
3) Will forensics tests reveal any anomalies, and if so, what types of anomalies?

My friend and blogger Arzu Geybullayeva (also Meydan TV) reported a couple of hours ago about a mobile app produced by the Central Electoral Commission that has received attention because it purportedly reveals the results of tomorrow's election (screencap below from Arzu's blog). Some reports have indicated that the app not only provides the national totals for candidates, but also detailed results about other aspects of the vote.

I have some lingering skepticism that this is a smoking gun for a couple of reasons. First, if the results were predetermined at this level of detail (especially if the additional reports are accurate), it would require substantial back-end "cleaning" efforts to ensure that results are "properly" reported tomorrow. This level of coordination did not seem to be present in the last presidential election. Second, it would be an inefficient way of winning. It is likely that President Aliyev will receive more legitimately cast votes than his opponents, especially due to the carefully controlled choice set. Tomorrow's vote will likely provide a strong baseline from which to manufacture any needed additional support in polling stations, district commissions, or at higher levels, to top off the win (using bureaucratic fraud, or other methods).

The CEC's Infocenter will be posting information on election day and afterward. Webcams are also online.

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