PRAGUE, August 31, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The failure of exiled former parliament speaker Rasul Quliyev to make good on his pledge to return to Baku last October to participate in the November 6 parliamentary ballot served to undermine both Quliyev's credibility and that of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) of which he is chairman.
The ensuing struggle for influence within the party between its first deputy chairman, Sardar Calaloglu, and Quliyev's close associate Aydin Quliyev has triggered the defection of dozens of DPA supporters to the political movement Azerbaijan's Path, which is led by Ilgar Gasymov, a former senior official in the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office. The DPA is the third opposition party -- after the Azerbaijan National Independence Party and Musavat -- to be rent by infighting in the aftermath of the November ballot.
In late March, almost five months after the ill-fated parliamentary ballot, Rasul Quliyev promoted to the party's leadership two of his supporters, Yagub Abbasov and Magomed Aliyarov, without first informing Calaloglu, echo-az.com reported on March 25. Abbasov was quoted by day.az on March 29 as explaining that those appointments were intended to "overcome pessimism" among the party's rank and file, but Aliyarov resigned from his new post almost immediately, allegedly for health reasons, saying Quliyev did not consult him before appointing him.
Calaloglu for his part publicly alleged on April 5 that Rasul Quliyev "has lost hope," something that Calaloglu stressed a true politician should never do, according to day.az. Zamina Dunyamaliyeva, a member of the DPA governing board, construed Calaloglu's accusation as part of a broader plan to oust Rasul Quliyev from the post of party chairman, according to day.az on April 10.
By mid-July, the extent of the pessimism within the DPA became crystal clear: echo-az.com calculated on July 15 that 38 members had recently quit the party to join Gasymov's movement, one of the stated aims of which is to force a solution on terms favorable to Azerbaijan of the Karabakh conflict and to achieve the status of autonomy for Azerbaijanis forcibly deported from Armenia.
Calaloglu retaliated by accusing Gasymov, first, of collaborating with Russian military intelligence, according to day.az on July 20, and then of "seeking to demolish a pro-Western political party," the same agency reported on August 2. (The signing of a cooperation agreement between Gasymov and the Georgian opposition organization Samartlianoba [Justice], one of whose leading members is fugitive former National Security Minister Igor Giorgadze, may well have contributed to speculation about Gasymov's ties with Russian security bodies.)
Responding to those allegations, which he dismissed as "ridiculous," Gasymov nonetheless admitted to day.az on August 2 that at least 60 former DPA members have joined Azerbaijan's Path.
The most serious blow to the DPA's prestige came just days later, when its local branch in Agjabed Raion was dissolved and 112 former branch members joined Azerbaijan's Way en masse, zerkalo.az reported on August 11. Former branch head Tofiq Cafarov explained his and his fellow members' motivation to that paper, arguing that rivalries among the various opposition parties preclude their aligning to form a realistic alternative to Azerbaijan's present leadership. "We are tired of hearing 'Next time around we shall come to power.' How long can they continue trying to dupe people?" he asked rhetorically.
But Aydyn Quliyev gave a different interpretation to the exodus of members from the DPA, telling day.az on August 22 that "people are running away not from the Democratic Party but from Calaloglu and his entourage, who have created an intolerable situation within the party."
Meanwhile, Calaloglu continued to downplay the defections of DPA members to Gasymov, accusing the latter of "lies," day.az reported on August 8. But Quliyev seems to have given up completely on the DPA and is now channeling his energy into founding a new International Democratic Movement, the founding conference of which is scheduled for October, Dunyamaliyeva told day.az on August 21.
A photo gallery of the Azerbaijan opposition protests in Baku on November 9, 2005.