Ahead of Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan, political analyst Dennis Sammut looks at the background to the current political situation and the likely post-election scenario.
Many consider that the result of the presidential elections due to be held in Azerbaijan on 9 October is a foregone conclusion. Some polls commissioned by pro-government sources are already predicting that 90% of those voting will cast their ballot in favour of the incumbent President Ilham Aliev. The opposition claims, and many international observers agree, that the political space for those opposing the government in Azerbaijan is narrower now than at any time since the collapse of the USSR, of which Azerbaijan was one of the constituent republics.
So why is the government, the opposition, the international community and others bothering to go through the motions of having an election, and of engaging with it in different ways? The answer is that there is a political debate and process going on in Azerbaijan, in public, but mostly under the surface. The Presidential election is not the most important part of it by far, but with all its shortcomings it is still an essential piece of the jigsaw for both government and opposition. More…
The Head of the Secretariat of the Azerbaijani Central Elections Commission, Rovzat Gasimov, has stated that nearly half a million young people will vote for the first time in the forthcoming presidential election in the country. This constitutes around 10% of the total electorate, which is approximately five million voters. Gasimov also said that in all around 40% of the electorate are considered to be youth.
Gasimov was speaking at the launch of a project called “Vote” which is being implemented by the “Ireli” public union with the assistance of the Central Elections Commission. The launch was held earlier this week at the Park Inn Hotel in Baku. Speaking at the event, “Ireli “ Chairman Rauf Merdiyev said that the goal is to raise the turnout of the youth in the upcoming Presidential elections and to raise election awareness amongst young people voting for the first time.
The Election Manifesto of Camil Hassanli, the candidate of the National Council of Democratic Forces (full text)
This Manifesto sets out the policies, plans and commitments of Azerbaijani National Council of Democratic Forces, and its single, united candidate in the presidential elections of 2013. This Manifesto is drawn up in order to facilitate a free and fair pre-election environment; to create conditions for a truly competitive, democratic contest; to ensure that the rule of law and democratic principles are the basis of political power in Azerbaijan; and to achieve constructive cooperation between different political and public organizations. More…
Senior Presidential Administration official, Elnur Aslanov told AzerTaj news Agency that Azerbaijan does not interfere with the freedom of internet users and that 70% of the population was now on-line.
The government in Azerbaijan has provided all opportunities for citizens to have a free access to information. There is a free internet in the country. There are thousands of free bloggers on an internet space of Azerbaijan. There are tens of online radios, online TVs, hundreds of e-newspapers and e-magazines. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are extremely popular among the population. Social networks have become an integral part of our lives. It has also become a space of political discussions and exchange of view. Internet has already become a part of daily lives of people in Azerbaijan. The state is the first providing a free internet access for every citizen. More…
The TV debate on 17 September
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. More…
Sheikhulisam Allahsukur Pashazade
There was considerable astonishment in political circles in Azerbaijan and beyond at a statement issued ahead of the 9 October presidential Elections by representatives of Azerbaijan religious communities, who were gathered together by the senior Muslim Cleric in Azerbaijan, the Chairman of the Board of Caucasian Muslims, Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazade. In the statement the religious leaders called on their people to vote for the incumbent president, Ilham Aliev.
The Azerbaijani news Agency, APA reported on 19 September that “the statement says that despite the separation of religion and state, true believers should not be separated from the motherland: “Believers have begun to live properly after Heydar Aliyev returned to power. Heydar Aliyev felt the essence of Islam and appreciated its role in improving the moral of the people. President Ilham Aliyev is currently continuing the successful path of Heydar Aliyev and has been able to achieve the believers’ sympathy. Muslims, Jews and Christians in Azerbaijan always feel the state care. Ilham Aliyev regards religious tolerance as the biggest boon. As believers, we thank Ilham Aliyev for his care for the believers during his 10-year presidency. We call on our people to vote for Ilham Aliyev in the upcoming presidential elections”.
In many countries interference by religious leaders in elections is illegal, and only in countries like Iran do the clergy play a direct part in politics. Azerbaijani politicians, both pro-government and pro-opposition, often boast about Azerbaijan being a secular republic and such blatant interference, if indeed the statement is accurate, will raise a lot of questions and offer a dangerous precedent. It is also not clear to what extent leaders of other religious denominations acquiesced with the statement.
source CEW with APA