- Posted October 8, 2013 by
Tomorrow is a Good Day to Vote in Azerbaijan
I am today in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. Tomorrow is the Election Day here, the Presidential one and I want to take you to a tour of what I see here. So far I want to say, the development is just amazing - nation of 9 million has basked in oil riches that have more than tripled its gross domestic product and transformed the once-gritty capital, Baku, into a shining modern city.
Back to the political life - for the past two decades, Azerbaijan's political system has been relatively stable, and there is no reason to think these elections will reverse that trend. Some international organizations are placing the blame for the opposition parties’ problems exclusively on resource inequalities, but that argument fails to adequately account for the internal problems and lack of capacity which plague oppositional parties in Azerbaijan.
As analysis from Katy Pearce showed, on 4 of July of this year, a coalition of opposition parties surprisingly selected Rustem Ibrahimbekov, a well-known film director who was primarily based in Russia, as their unified candidate to run against President Aliyev. Interestingly enough, Ibrahimbekov’s political activity was almost unknown to the general electorate – as it basically did not exist. On August 27, no serious observers of Azerbaijan were surprised when the Central Election Committee denied Rustem Ibrahimbekov’s registration for the presidential election. Reason – despite some arguments for Ibrahimbekov as a candidate, there were constitutional barriers to him running for president from the moment he was selected – namely his Russian citizenship. On July 16, Ibrahimbekov officially submitted an application to renounce his citizenship – putting himself at the mercy of the Russian government and Russian bureaucracy – which is not very responsive even in far less urgent occasions. This is the interesting part – by doing this the opposition in Azerbaijan basically gave the Russian government leverage in its relationship with Baku. Comparisons to the successful campaign of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the prime minister of Georgia, are disingenuous.
Ibrahimbekov’s replacement, Jamil Hasanli, a respected historian, is even less well-known to the average voter. It is a simple – trying to sell a relatively unknown candidate five weeks before an election is not a good strategy. Moreover, it is problematic because the Azerbaijani opposition has never been especially skilled at engaging with the potential electorate in the provinces, and with good reason. It is much more difficult to operate in the political environment and culture outside of Baku.
Well, tomorrow is the Election Day and since the Azerbaijani opposition has failed to offer society a real alternative, especially from the point of view of program ideas- economics, politics, and social sphere – this is most probably the last election for the older generation of the Azerbaijani opposition, which seems to have reached its creative ceiling.