Azerbaijan’s Opposition Enters Stage Two

by Nathan Hamm on 12/8/2005 · 1 comment

Azerbaijan’s opposition protests appears to have entered the second stage of death and dying, lashing out at the US for betraying them.

“The US used a ‘double standards’ policy with Azerbaijan because we saw another American position during the [parliamentary and presidential] elections in Georgia and Ukraine [in 2003 and 2004, respectively]” the statement continued. “We regret that the US president and State Department did not fulfill their pre-election declarations and dealt a heavy blow to the democratic process in Azerbaijan.”

Support appears to be growing among some Azadlig activists for a thorough reexamination of the group’s position toward the US. “We [the opposition] gave our assessment of the elections. The US embassy issued their own completely different statement,” said one PFPA activist who had argued, along with other PFPA members, against the meeting with Harnish. “There is nothing to discuss with them.”

PFPA Deputy Chairman Fuad Mustafayev, however, told EurasiaNet on December 6 that the opposition has no plans to take its seats in parliament or to take part in the January 2006 elections for the ten constituencies. The opposition’s disappointment with the US position will be brought to Ambassador Harnish’s attention at the PFPA meeting, he said. “Now we know that we cannot rely on American support in our struggle for democracy.”

Eldar Namazov, one of the leaders of the Yeni Siyasat (YeS – New Policy) opposition alliance, also condemned the US position. “There is a clear, big difference between the American pre- and post-election statements and actions. This issue should be seriously researched in the future. But it is a fact already that the US openly blessed the total falsifications and violations made by the Central Election Commission, Appeal and Constitutional Courts,” he told EurasiaNet on December 6.

Good luck with that. Really.

I understand why the opposition feels the way it does, but it’s awfully hard to throw a lot of support behind a movement that doesn’t have a whole lot of steam behind it. The Popular Front, in comparing the situation in Azerbaijan to Georgia and Ukraine, apparently fails to recognize that it has failed to build the momentum of either oppositions’ protests.

And this also signals that Azerbaijan’s opposition leaders agree with regional leaders that recent revolutions only happen because of US intervention. Had they been paying closer attention, perhaps they would have realized that the US has been much more willing to help those who help themselves. No matter how much any of us want politics to be different, they are about the possible.

That’s not to say that the US could not have handled the situation better–they undoubtedly could have. The sunny statements about the election came way too quickly and made the embassy look foolish. There has also not been too strong a message of disapproval sent to the Azeri government for the way it has prevented and cracked down on protests.

EurasiaNet’s article goes on to discuss opinions of why the US has been acting the way it has, but the simplest way to put it is that the US is not going to invest serious effort into supporting something that looks like it will not happen.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

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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{ 1 comment }

qadinbakida December 8, 2005 at 8:52 pm

Spot on, Nathan. Not sure if that’s the only reason the US acted the way it did. It’s just hard to come up with a rationale for why the Constitutional court was praised for ignoring more than 500 complaints, having an inscrutable process for responding to the complaints, and tossing out results the government itself didn’t object to (Kerimli’s seat). A lot other approaches could have been taken that would have had pleased the AZ government and not inflamed/insulted the opposition.

Not much makes sense in Azerbaijan.

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