Dec 06, 2005

Azerbaijan: Tactical Differences Emerge Within Opposition

The cohesion demonstrated by Azerbaijan's generally disparate opposition parties in their protest over the perceived falsification of the results of the 6 November parliamentary elections was in stark contrast to their disinclination to form a single
The cohesion currently demonstrated by Azerbaijan's generally disparate opposition parties in their protest over the perceived falsification of the results of the 6 November parliamentary elections was in stark contrast to their disinclination to form a single opposition alignment to contest that ballot. But despite that solidarity, significant divergences with regard to tactics and strategy persist, and emerged clearly at the 26 November protest that was dispersed by police with what one Azerbaijani journalist described as "unimaginable cruelty." At the same time, the opposition is increasingly embittered by the international community's failure to persuade the Azerbaijani authorities to revise the election outcome.

The first mass protest in the wake of the 6 November ballot brought together the leaders of the three opposition parties aligned in the Azadlyq bloc -- Ali Kerimli of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party's (AHCP) progressive wing, Isa Qambar (Musavat), and Sardar Djalaloglu (Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, ADP) -- together with Lala Shovket Gadjieva of the National Unity movement. Eldar Namazov, one of the co-founders of the opposition bloc Yeni Siyaset (YeS), expressed support for that protest.

At the second and subsequent such protests, the Azadlyq leaders were joined by Iskander Hamidov (whose National Democratic Party failed to win representation in the new parliament); Mirmakhmud Miralioglu, chairman of the conservative wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, joined them on the podium at the fourth (26 November) rally, which was also attended by Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, imam of the now closed Djuma Mosque, reported on 29 November. But while Azadlyq moved from demanding a revision of the preliminary election results to demanding their annulment and the holding of new elections, Hamidov rejected the latter proposal, reasoning that the authorities would almost certainly falsify the outcome of the repeat vote too, according to on 22 November.

The Umid and Civic Solidarity parties, which are widely regarded as fulfilling the role of a "tame" opposition, distanced themselves on 25 November from a statement, allegedly signed by 800 failed would-be parliamentary candidates, affirming that the 6 November ballot was free and fair, according to on 26 November. Umid Chairman Iqbal Agazade rejected the claim by Gusein Pashaev, a spokesman for the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, that he was one of an unspecified number of candidates from Umid, the AHCP, Musavat, and the Communist Party of Azerbaijan who signed that statement.

But the opposition remains divided both over tactics and external support. The disagreement over tactics surfaced on 26 November, when, as at the preceding rally on 19 November, some participants carried banners calling for establishing a tent camp on Gelebe Square, the rally venue. In the absence of strong international backing, the opposition's options remain limited to peaceful protest, unlawful protest, and the "constructive dialogue" with the Azerbaijani authorities that Qambar continues to advocate.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders are clearly disappointed that the international community has not been more vocal and effective in its support. Qambar told journalists in Baku on 25 November that the opposition is no longer counting on support from the West, although opposition leaders will continue to hold what he termed "working meetings" with Western ambassadors, reported.

But AMIP leader Aliyev advocated refraining for one week from any contacts with those Western diplomats whose stance with regard to the election outcome is "not objective," according to on 24 November. ADP First Deputy Chairman Djalaloglu was quoted on 25 November by as accusing the West of "betraying democracy [in Azerbaijan] at the last minute."

The online daily commented that the international community's failure to exert greater pressure on the Azerbaijani authorities to annul the election results in more constituencies where opposition candidates won, but were not officially acknowledged the winner, is likely to fuel both anti-Western and, specifically, anti-U.S. sentiment.

Commentator Farkhad Mamedov, writing on 29 November in, argued that the outcome of the ballot may undermine people's faith in "democracy," which, he continued, is a "Western concept, some aspects of which conflict with the norms and values of Azerbaijani society."

Echoing statements made several months ago by young politicians close to President Aliyev who advocated a "new model of statehood" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 22 July 2005), Mamedov called for a concept of statehood that would encompass such attributes as a market economy and "social solidarity," and that would be oriented towards human rights and freedoms and the needs of the individual.

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty