Meanwhile on the borderlands, SueAndNotU sends a reminder that Azerbaijan will be holding parliamentary elections on November 6. The country’s current president, Ilham Aliyev, essentially inherited the job from his father, who had also been Azerbaijan’s communist boss before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Add oil, ubiquitous corruption, the loss of nearly a fifth of the country’s land in a dispute over an Armenian-settled area called Nagorno-Karabakh and something like half a million internally displaced persons resulting from this conflict, and you have a situation ripe for popular discontent. Which is indeed what we find.
The opposition has adopted the color orange, the power structure is preparing its own exit polls to counter the ones that will be produced by international observers. The police have been breaking up opposition rallies with varying degrees of violence, and there is precious little news from the countryside, although Radio Free Europe’s coverage is in general good. The Council of Europe has already criticized the authorities’ approach to electoral democracy and freedom of assembly. Today, one of the opposition’s leaders was detained in Ukraine on an Interpol warrant. Showing their commitment to a free press and to international openness, Azeri authorities had warned journalists and diplomats to stay away from Baku’s airport today in anticipation of the opposition leader’s return.
Clearly a combustible situation, and from sunny Munich, a difficult one to assess. Reports are scarce, and I don’t know any way to tell if the opposition has the kind of broad organization and support that Pora had in Ukraine. And of course there’s no way to tell how authorities, police and army will react in the event of unrest. The opposition’s use of an exiled leader to rally around suggests weakness, and there are no outward signs that power players have turned against Aliyev. People power alone will probably not do the trick.
Narinci Azerbaijan? Not yet.