An apparent split within the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) has been dismissed as a government ploy to divide and weaken the opposition by the Party’s newspaper, “Azadliq”.
Former Deputy Chairman, of the APFP. Razi Nurullaev, together with a handful of former activists, yesterday (Wednesday, 19 August) addressed a press conference at the International Press Club in Baku, during which they accused Popular Front Chairman Ali Kerimli of dictatorial practices and of having usurped his powers. Nurullaev said that a congress of the Popular Front was due to be held last September but was cancelled, and that therefore Kerimli’s mandate as Chairman had expired. Nurullaev said that there was a lot of discontent within the APFP and promised to rally around those party members who wanted change
Nurullaev resigned as Deputy Chairman of the Popular Front in February of this year and has since been involved in acrimonious exchanges with Party officials. In his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the APFP responsible for international affairs Nurullaev became a familiar face on the international circuit in Baku, as a regular point of contact between the party and embassies and international organisations. Nurullaev however is not thought to have much grass root support, within the APFP or elsewhere.
This is not the first time that splits have occurred within the Popular Front Party. In fact a party with a similar name, but which has close connections with the government already exists.
The influential newspaper of the Popular Front, “Azadliq”, in a comment today slammed Nurullaev and accused him of being a tool in the hands of the government, and part of what it called “Operation Razi” which was aimed to discredit the opposition ahead of the 1 November parliamentary elections.
For a short period after Azerbaijan regained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Popular Front held power in Azerbaijan, and its leader Abulfaz Elcebey became the first democratically elected president of the newly independent state. His government however faced huge economic, social and political problems, and was embroiled in a bloody war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Elcebei was forced to resign in 1993, but remained head of the Popular Front. The present leader of the APFP, Ali Kerimli, was a close associate of Elcebey and served as State Secretary in his government. He succeeded Elcebey as Chairman of the Party when he died in 2000. Kerimli has been under considerable government pressure for many years. His passport has been revoked and he is not allowed to travel overseas.
photo: Razi Nurullaev and other dissident members of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party at a press Conference in Baku on 19 August 2015. (picture courtesy of Musavat.com).