Khakra

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Oh very merry, Azeri

Outside the terrible Baku airport, where I once transited for two hours, sits the beautiful nation of Azerbaijan.

Tomorrow the country faces Election Day, and its ex-communist government is expected to remain in power. Why? Because the people are happy. The election may well be rigged, but the bottomline is that the people are happy.

Even if it wasn't rigged, it's a shame that president Ilham Aliyev had to resort to techniques to ensure his party's parliamentary reelection, something ex-Communist leaders are known to do.

Who won't be happy with Aliyev's party parliamentary reelection? Armenia and the U.S.

Armenia is fighting Azerbaijan in a dispute for the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which is alarmingly similar to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Armenians perhaps were hoping that a change in Azeri leadership or parliamentary strength would lead to a policy change.

Nagorno-Karabakh was originally considered a part of Azerbaijan, and in the late 80s Armenian separatists declared it their own region, which created confusion about who it belonged to. When Communism fell in 1991, both Armenia and Azerbaijan considered the region part of their country, which initiated the conflict between the two.

U.N. considers Nagorno-Karabakh a part of Azerbaijan, though it shows more Armenian influence. People have died in the conflict, and constant military exchanges are frustrating people, who want a resolution ASAP. The fight with Armenia ties Azeris to Aliyev; as long as the president shows strength against Armenia, his party will keep the popular vote.

The U.S. helped create revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, but may have to wait a bit longer for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is an oil-rich state and as more Caspian oil reserves are found, it will grow more. Both Russia and U.S. want a piece of Azerbaijan, and are trying hard to expand their sphere of influence in Azerbaijan with economic cooperation.

Russia benefits from Aliyev's party's power in the Milli Mejlis (parliament), as it will retain its sphere of influence around the Caspian Sea and in the Caucasus, a strategically important region for oil. Until the ex-Communists remain, so will the pro-Russian slant. By default, the Azeri government will want to maintain a good friendship with Russia as it shares the Caspian Sea and a border with Russia. And oil builds relationships.

Not only public support, but Aliyev's smartness as a politician will keep him and the Aliyev dynasty in power for the future. As is with ex-Soviet nations, Azerbaijan's 2003 presidential polls were considered rigged -- this time, a confident Aliyev has opened up the elections to the international community, asking them to come and view the transparency for themselves.

The U.S. believes the current elections are democratically more representative, but I expect them to issue a statement saying it was partly rigged. Expect a few governments to repeat that, and Russia praising it, as they share a good relationship with Aliyev.

Human Rights Watch says this election is partly rigged -- they have accused the government of using the police to intimidate opposition candidates.

Aliyev's government clamped down on media to ensure his party, New Azerbaijan, gets favorable coverage, reports stated. He has also arrested and prevented demonstration by opposition parties.

A weak opposition, led by Azerbaijan Democratic Party, has no legitimate leader present, and that benefits Aliyev. During an attempt to return to Baku from the U.S. afer being in exile for 9 years, ADP leader Rasul Guliyev was detained before he could even enter the country. He currently is wanted in Azerbaijan for misappropriating $100 million+. Other opposition party members have been arrested under fraudulent charges. Once the election is over, they perhaps will be given a threat or two, released, and asked to move on with life.

Aliyev's father, Heydar Aliyev, became Azerbaijan's head in 1969 when the country was under Soviet Russia. He shuttled between Moscow and Azerbaijan, until he fell ill in 2003 and passed on the presidential baton to his son. I didn't know this tidbit, but Heydar Aliyev was Kremlin's first Islamic politburo member.

A remote chance says that opposition parties could unite to oust Aliyev's party to dominate the parliament, but it's remote. So, we have the same old Soviet story repeating itself -- dictators posing as democracy supporters. However, this time, Aliyev might just make his party's power legit.

And that pisses me off. Why do some already legit democracies struggle to find their bearings?

6 Comments:

Anonymous downunder said...

Another post, another weekly lesson in the ways of the world.

You know of these places that we in Australia have hardly heard of.

Funny the influence that geography can have.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Khakra said...

allie-o, if you pay me to cover east timor or New South Wales, or even Tassie, I'll do that too!

2:14 PM  
Blogger venus said...

wow, coming from democratic world, I can not imagine what other people are going through at the other side of the world! I guess, people's sympathy is natural towards Aliyev, I would not let go Kashmir either!
I don't find it a coincident that small oil rich countries are influnenced by communism or are ruled by dictators.

5:52 PM  
Blogger square peg said...

That was v. educational...who knew? Are you based out of SF and get stationed at different places for long periods of time or are you full time here?

9:33 AM  
Anonymous downunder said...

I don't think communism is such a bad thing... it certainly has its benefits over Capitalism.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Khakra said...

venus, a-o, for some countries communism or dictators just work better. for some Eurasian countries, communism was better -- atleast they had resources pouring in from moscow, if nothing. After communism collapsed, some of the ex-Soviet republics are suffering even more. Democracy has ruptured them with more politics than development. It's a give and take, I guess. Democracy has worked very well in India atleast

squared off, hope i could travel more? got cash? actually I've worked in different parts of the world, and this stint in SF is to reload my bank account, so I can do exactly that...

3:59 PM  

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