Respected international polling firm finds Azerbaijani voters in no mood for change

Azerbaijanis vote in parliamentary elections next month, with almost 80 per cent of voters believing their nation is heading in the right direction under the present leadership and that the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains the defining issue.

A pre-election poll published on Oct.14 by respected American polling firm Arthur J. Finkelstein and Associates focuses on a wide range of issues affecting the nation’s 5.1 million voters. Asked “are things moving in the right direction or the wrong direction?” 77.1 per cent said right direction while only 14.7 per cent said the wrong direction.

Of the most important issues facing voters, just 7.2 per cent in this resource-rich nation said the economy, but 41.3 per cent chose Nagorno-Karabakh, which – along with seven surrounding territories – continues to be occupied by Armenia in defiance of international resolutions calling for an immediate withdrawal.

“Five times more respondents named Nagorno-Karabakh as the most important issue facing the nation than the economy,” said George Birnbaum, Executive Director of Arthur J. Finkelstein and Associates.

“It remains a highly emotive issue that pervades all aspects of politics and government in ways many observers in the West simply don’t understand.”

In terms of geo-political issues, 81.7 per cent of respondents agreed that “Azerbaijan is an island of stability in a region where most countries are unstable” and importantly, given what is unfolding across Europe, 71 per cent believe the present government is well-placed to prevent the immigration crisis from spilling into Azerbaijan.

More than 80 per cent also believe the country’s leadership, which shares intelligence with western nations on security issues, has protected the nation against acts of terror.

As of today, New Azerbaijan Party candidates are favored by 74.4 percent of decided voters, with fourteen percent remaining undecided. This means that in the vast majority of constituencies, the New Azerbaijan Party candidates are expected do very well.

Inevitably, this election will also serve as a referendum on the performance of President Ilham Aliyev, who was re-elected in late 2013. Asked “in general, how would you rate the job done by the current President Ilham Aliyev?” 82.1 per cent said either good or excellent.

“It is easy to conclude from our poll that voters want more of the same,” said Birnbaum, whose company correctly forecast the result of the 2013 election.

“They want political and economic stability; they want to be kept safe from terror; and they want their elected representatives to keep fighting for the return of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

The poll, of 1000 registered voters, was conducted face to face in 108 constituencies around Azerbaijan between September 28 and October 9.