News / Europe

Azerbaijan Presidential Vote May Reveal Cracks in Regime Support

A man passes an election poster with portraits of presidential candidates in central Baku, October 4, 2013.
A man passes an election poster with portraits of presidential candidates in central Baku, October 4, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
— In oil-rich Azerbaijan, people vote for president Wednesday in an election that holds little suspense.  An Aliyev - either father, Haydar, or son, Ilham - has ruled Azerbaijan for 32 of the last 44 years.

Ilham Aliyev has steadily increased his share of the vote during his decade as Azerbaijan's president.  In 2003, he received 76 percent of votes cast.  In 2008, he received 87 percent.  In the last parliamentary election, his supporters took all the seats.

All the same, state-of-the-art web cameras have been installed in polling stations.  Hundreds of election observers have flown to Baku, largely from other former Soviet republics.

Khadija Ismayilova, an opposition journalist, says there is a new word for this kind of regime.

“Democratatorship - dictatorships pretending to democracies,” she said from Baku.  “I think that word suits Aliyev’s regime very well.”

There are opposition candidates.  But human rights activists say their access to state television is limited and their public meetings are restricted by local authorities.

When echoes of the Arab Spring reached the shores of Caspian Sea, Azeri police moved fast to break up youth protests coordinated via Facebook.  Human rights workers say that Azeri jails now hold 142 political prisoners.

Giorgi Gogia tracks the clampdown on political freedom in Baku for Human Rights Watch.

“We have seen very limited freedom of expression, very limited and restricted criticisms of the country’s leadership, even furthermore a serious crackdown, detention, harassment, imprisonment and conviction of political critics in the country,” Gogia said from neighboring Georgia.

During the last two years, serious riots caused extensive damage in two provincial cities.  More recently, thousands of people demonstrated in the capital, Baku, last month, calling on President Aliyev to resign.

Lawrence Sheets visits Baku frequently from his base in Georgia, where he is the South Caucasus Project Director for the International Crisis Group.

“The run-up to the election in Azerbaijan has been surprisingly nervous from the standpoint of the authorities,” he said.  “Because they say that President Aliyev, if you speak to his aides, they claim that he has at least 70 percent support, 80 percent, sometimes they will say 90 percent,” said Sheets.

Two polls taken last month indicate that 85 percent of voters back President Aliyev.  It is hard to judge the accuracy of polls in the country's closed political environment.  But it is clear that the president has a strong base of support.

Due to high oil prices and increased production, the Azeri economy has grown almost 10-fold during the decade of Ilham Aliyev’s rule.

According to Sheets, “People’s standard of living has risen significantly from what it was 20 years or even 10 years ago. That’s noticeable. Not just in Baku, but even the countryside and in the provincial cities. If you crisscross the country, you can tell people are living better.”

Ismayilova, however, says that Azerbaijan’s wildly skewed income distribution angers many voters.  She has suffered harassment for her reports detailing the ruling family’s hold on lucrative monopolies inside Azerbaijan and its multi-million-dollar investments in Dubai and the Czech Republic.

Wednesday’s presidential election - a once-every-five-years event - may reveal whether serious cracks are developing in the Aliyev family’s hold on Azerbaijan.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid