Yeni Azerbaycan Playing Games

by Nathan Hamm on 5/9/2005

Azerbaijan’s ruling party is sending mixed signals on guaranteeing that the upcoming parliamentary election will be clean. YAP recently extended an olive branch to the opposition. RFE/RL’s Liz Fuller identifies a handful of reasons why YAP might be stalling on reforms.

First, the ruling elite is understandably nervous at the prospect that blatantly falsified elections could trigger mass protests that culminate in regime change, as happened in Georgia in November 2003, Ukraine last fall, and Kyrgyzstan in March.

Second, some individuals within that elite may be confident that the international community will continue to turn a blind eye to its unwillingness to democratize rather than risk major upheavals in the run-up to the commissioning later this year of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil. Third, the lack of consistency between official statements may be intended both to wrong-foot and confuse the opposition and to convince the international community that at least some elements within the leadership are campaigning to ensure the upcoming ballot is democratic, and that excessive criticism or pressure could undermine the position of those progressive elements. Alternatively, there may well be disagreement, if not infighting, under way between various factions within the Azerbaijani leadership.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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