Azerbaijani MPs have approved a proposal to dissolve parliament and ask President Ilham Aliyev to call a snap election.
The members of parliament, which is dominated by Aliyev’s New Azerbaijan Party, backed the appeal on Monday, urging its own dissolution by 99 votes to one, with one abstention.
The move – initially tabled by the governing party on Thursday – followed the shock resignation last month of Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov.
Currently, parliamentary elections are scheduled for November 2020, but the president has the right to dissolve the parliament and call an early election.
Under the terms of the constitution, a snap election has to be held within 60 days after the legislature is dissolved by a presidential decree.
Officials have said an early vote would help modernise Azerbaijan‘s legislature and speed up economic reforms in the oil-rich country, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
Mammadov unexpectedly tendered his resignation in October, with no reason provided for the surprise move.
Hours later, Aliyev named close ally Ali Asadov as Mammadov’s replacement. The technocrat’s appointment was unanimously approved by parliament.
With most powers concentrated in the hands of the president, parliament has a limited role in Azerbaijan’s political system. The prime ministerial post is seen as largely a nominal role traditionally held by someone close to Aliyev.
First elected in 2003, two months before the death of his father, Heydar Aliyev, who ruled for 10 years, Ilham Aliyev was re-elected in 2008, 2013 and 2018.
He has cemented his position with two referendums, one in 2009 that scrapped a two-term presidential limit and another in 2016 that extended the presidential term to seven years from five. He appointed his wife Mehriban first vice president, the second most powerful post after the president, in 2017.
Under the Aliyev dynasty, Baku has faced strong international criticism for silencing dissent and media.
International rights group Amnesty International says critics of the government “face politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment following unfair trials” while the country is classed as “Not Free” by Freedom House, an international watchdog.
“Corruption is rampant, and following years of persecution, formal political opposition is weak,” the group’s website said.
Oil has been the defining factor of Azerbaijan’s economy over the past 20 years, with its gross domestic product (GDP) increasing more than tenfold – from $6bn to $66bn – between 2001 and 2014, according to the World Bank.
However, plummeting global oil prices in 2014 sent the former Soviet energy producer’s economy into decline, leading to bankruptcies among its commercial banks and pushing the manat currency down by a third against the dollar.
Last week, Azerbaijan’s parliament passed a budget for 2020 based on an estimated oil price of $55 per barrel and GDP growth of 3 percent next year. The budget forecasts an acceleration in annual inflation to 4.6 percent in 2020 from the expected 4 percent this year.