It may be short, and in many ways it is also sharp, but the 22-day campaign ahead of Presidential elections in Azerbaijan next month is anything but sweet. So far the campaign is characterised by heated exchanges between representatives of the incumbent president, Ilham Aliev, and the candidate of the opposition National Council, Camil Hassanli.
In the first televised debate of the campaign Hassanli clashed with the Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, Ali Akmedov in scenes that would be considered common in many other countries, but which for Azerbaijan were highly unusual. Azerbaijan’s opposition has for most of the time over the last five years been restricted to criticising the government on the internet and through the medium of its own newspapers. Now after a long time opposition spokespersons were on national television, accusing the government of corruption and mismanagement of the country. Contact.az reported that “in the first round of debates on September 17, Camil Hassanli threw down the gauntlet to Ilham Aliyev, and unexpectedly, even for other panelists, directly accused the current president of corruption and embezzlement of billions of funds.”
Government spokesmen on their party continue to characterise the opposition as incompetent, divided and acting in the interests of foreigners. Ilham Aliev’s campaign, which is being spearheaded by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party is focusing primarily on the achievements of the government in eradicating poverty, developing the country ,and creating a strong state. Pro Aliev spokespersons dismiss accusations that the there is no freedom of speech in Azerbaijan, citing complete internet freedom and plurality within the printed media.
The first days of campaigning were also overshadowed by the arrest of a leading opposition journalist who has been accused of illegal possession of arms. The arrest was strongly condemned by Hassanli and other opposition leaders. Source:
CEW staff reporters.