Accessibility links

Ilham Aliyev: Responsible Adult

Soldiers register to vote at a polling station in Baku

Soldiers register to vote at a polling station in Baku

Johns Hopkins University's Central Asia-Caucasus Institute (CACI) hosted a forum last week on their significance of Azerbaijan's elections to regional and international politics. Participants included Elkhan Nuriyev, director of the Center for Strategic Studies in Baku; Elin Suleymanov, the consul-general for Azerbaijan; and Anthony Bowyer, program manager of the Central Asia section of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

The panel presented an optimistic outlook for the elections, emphasizing their expected fairness and "efficiency." Azerbaijanis will for the first time be able to observe the voting process through webcams located in 10 percent of the country's election districts. While keeping the ballot secret, this technology will allow Azerbaijanis to see that voters are treated fairly throughout the process (or at least that's the idea).

As for the opposition's boycott of the elections, both Suleymanov and Nuriyev contended that the opposition is afraid of losing another election because of its unpopularity and is simply trying to "save face" and avoid embarrassment. Both argued that the opposition's boycott is a cowardly move and that even though the incumbent President Ilham Aliyev is at the peak of his popularity, they could still express their views in a fair electoral setting. The panel praised Aliyev as a "responsible adult" on the "Caucasian playground" and emphasized his "success" in reinvigorating Azerbaijan's economy.

Opposition supporters were notably absent from the panel, leading to a rather one-sided discussion. The institute's director, S. Frederick Starr, is known to have a soft spot for authoritarian regimes in the Caucasus and Central Asia (read more about this in a "Harper's" article here) and this event definitely seemed to reflect that.

-- Julia Kosygina

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at