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In the News

Azerbaijan 2013: Choice Point

Vestnik Kavkaza

August 21, 2012

2013 will be a big year for politics in Azerbaijan – the presidential elections will take place in the country. Even though there is still more than a year left before the elections, Azerbaijani society is actively discussing the coming presidential race. In this context it would be reasonable to analyze the distribution of forces in this South Caucasian republic.

The election discussions were prompted by the statement of the ruling party Eni Azerbaijan that its candidate at the next elections will be the chairman of the party, President Ilham Aliyev. Constitutional amendments adopted in 2009 ceased limits for a number of election terms for one person. Therefore, Ilham Aliyev will have an opportunity to be a candidate for the third time; and it looks like he will use it. According to various sociological polls, the rating of President is 70-90%, and it makes us think that the results of the elections will be understood in the first round.

While in the governmental camp events are developing according to a predictable scenario, the situation with the opposition is still unclear. I would like to note that the opposition in Azerbaijan is segmental. The opposition cannot not only launch one common candidate for the elections, but also provide such a “distribution” of candidates that wouldn’t lead to the internal struggle.

Nevertheless, the opposition in Azerbaijan means political forces united by the structure called “the Public Chamber,” i.e. Musavat and Party of the Peoples Front of Azerbaijan.

Even now it is obvious that there will be two significant problems which the Public Chamber will force. First of all, it is traditional difficulties with agreement on one candidate. Reaching of an agreement between the chairman of PPFA, Ali Kerimli, and the leader of Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, is possible. However, this agreement hasn’t been reached yet.

Another even more important task for the opposition is mobilization of the current protest electorate. The Azerbaijani opposition failed to achieve significant successes in this front. Attempts to organize mass demonstrations in April 2010 appeared to be a promoted bubble. The protest movement called “The Great Peoples Day” consisted of two hundred people only.

The other attempt of the opposition to make a statement was political activity of the Public Chamber and non-governmental organizations closed to it during preparations to the musical contest Eurovision. The opposition managed to draw attention of the leading European mass media and international human rights organizations. However, the activity wasn’t supported by Azerbaijani society, especially by the youth. The opposition managed to gather only 2-3 thousand people at the demonstration permitted by the government in the village of Bibi-Eibat on the eve of Eurovision. Soon international society had changed its opinion. The State Secretary of the US Hilary Clinton didn’t meet representatives of the Public Chamber when she came to Azerbaijani, even though it was a tradition.

Could the classic opposition undergo restructuring, unite and manage to attract serious resources for the presidential campaign and, the most important thing, attract electorate? It is rather dubious, considering the existing reality.

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