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.
James Brooke
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.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid