But Ibragimbekov, the country's most prominent prospective opposition candidate, may not get the chance to duel with the powerful President Aliyev. According to local media reports, Ibragimbekov failed to secure cancelation of his second, Russian citizenship.
Azerbaijani law bars double citizens from running for president. Ibragimbekov appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to expedite his denaturalization, a process that may last up to a year.
Putin, who recently visited Baku to achieve less than phenomenal progress on gas and oil talks, has not publicly commented on Ibragimbekov’s appeal. Russia’s Federal Migration Service told the Haqqin.az civil-rights-news portal that Ibragimbekov’s case is most likely to be reviewed in the beginning of 2014 at the earliest.
Citing the Federal Migration Service, Haqqin reported that Ibragimbekov, who has a house in Los Angeles, holds a US Green Card, which farther complicates his case.
These hurdles, however, did not prevent the National Council of Democratic Forces, an alliance of Azerbaijani opposition parties, from turning in Ibragimbekov’s application to Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission.
Eldar Namazov, a senior member of the National Council, struck an optimistic note, saying that Putin can grant or revoke citizenship overnight. “There have been precedents when all the formalities were taken care of in one day, as was the case with granting [Russian] citizenship to [French movie star] Gerard Depardieu,” Namazov told Kavkazsky Uzel news service.
The Central Election Commission said it will make a decision on Ibragimbekov’s application in the next couple of days. The Commission has already approved 14 candidates, including incumbent Ilham Aliyev.