It's election season in Azerbaijan and things are beginning to heat up. According to our Azerbaijani Service, President Ilham Aliyev has ordered that all the pictures of him be taken down. In terms of sycophantry, Azerbaijan is no Turkmenistan, but if you travel around you can't miss the ubiquitous portraits along the side of the road -- some of Ilham, some of his father Heydar, and some, touchingly, of father and son together.
But Aliyev, embarrassed by the wild and spontaneous devotion of his subjects, has said the portraits must come down as he wants to be remembered for his deals, rather than for his propaganda. (In true petrostate style, he doesn't want to be remembered for his humanitarian work or his presidential benevolence.)
Apparently, Aliyev said he wanted to create equal opportunities for all candidates, although taking down photos of himself is unlikely to address the real electoral abuses such as an unfree media and a weighted election commission.
Aliyev will almost certainly win reelection for a second term, so it'll be interesting to see if the portraits really do come down, and if they do, whether they'll go back up again in October.
-- Luke Allnutt