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"Fruit and Flowers Revolution" Postponed in Azerbaijan


(Washington, D.C.--December 1, 2005) Azerbaijan has postponed, not prevented a "color revolution" similar to the ones in the former communist states of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, said independent security analyst and RFE/RL contributor Richard Giragosian. Giragosian told a recent RFE/RL audience that the closed structure of the political system in Azerbaijan not only will contribute to a postponement of what he termed "a fruit and flowers revolution," but will also delay the development of democratic institutions and a democratic process in that country.

Giragosian said Azerbaijan's government appears to be "following a Central Asian authoritarian model" rather than one of a growing democracy. He described the structural factors of Azerbaijan's closed political system as: the "personalization" of government where "personality trumps platform"; a "lack of resilient institutions; the "law of the ruler" prevails rather than rule of law; and politics is about "self interest, not [the] national interest."

This "troubled system," according to Giragosian, includes a "fragmented opposition" where again there is a "predominance of personality over platform." In the struggle to maintain power, Giragosian said, the Azerbaijan government has shown a "lack of concern for domestic issues," so threats to the regime could come from two directions: "the green uniforms of the security forces, and the green banners of Islamists."

However, the greatest threat to the stability of Azerbaijan comes from "the regime's potential for overreaction, Giragosian said, noting that there has already been "indiscriminate use of force against peaceful demonstrators and journalists" in the country. Because the "stakes in [Azeri] politics are all or nothing," the "illegitimacy of the regime fuels the instability" in Azerbaijan, according to Giragosian. The Azerbaijani political system is defined by "the internal security and power relationships," Giragosian said, "not geo-politics."

Giragosian added that he is concerned about Azerbaijan's recent increase in military spending: "Military spending in 2005 was $300 million, but in 2006 it is expected to be $650 million." The greatest concern, Giragosian said, is "about how and where the money will be spent." He fears that neighboring Armenia will match the spending, sparking the return of an arms race in the Caucasus region. Under the previous government in Azerbaijan, the military was "weakened through under-funding," according to Giragosian, thus generating a "disgruntled officer corps." He believes that, in the current unstable climate where "civil society is a generation away," "the tipping point" determining the fate of the current government will occur when a decision is made by the security forces, both the police and army, to either "step aside or switch sides."
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