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Azerbaijani Opposition Seeks To Avert 'Egyptian Scenario'

Popular Front leader Ali Kerimli pictured here leaving a voting booth during last year's parliamentary elections.
Popular Front leader Ali Kerimli pictured here leaving a voting booth during last year's parliamentary elections.
The opposition Civic Movement for Democracy -- Public Chamber (GDDOP), established in late December, has urged new parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan "in order to prevent the situation in the country from developing in line with the Tunisian and Egyptian scenarios." A senior member of the presidential administration argued last week, however, that it is the opposition which is seeking to bring about a repetition in Azerbaijan of the events that precipitated the overthrow of the Tunisian leadership.

The GDDOP, which has 195 members and claims to unite all leading Azerbaijani opposition forces, held its first plenary session on January 29 at the Baku headquarters of the opposition Musavat Party.

One of the Movement's founding members, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) Chairman Ali Kerimli, defined the primary objective as "the consolidation of all political forces and civil society in order to bring about democratic changes."

A second founding member, Musavat party chairman Isa Gambar, similarly affirmed that the GDDOP's message to authorities and the Azerbaijani population is that political change and democratization are essential but cannot take place under the present leadership.

Therefore, Gambar continued, the leadership must be replaced, ideally by means of democratic parliamentary elections. But if the authorities reject that option, Gambar said, "the people will rise up. By then it will be too late for the authorities, and events will develop in accordance with the Tunisian and Egyptian scenarios."

The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) made public last week its final report on the November 7, 2010 Azerbaijani parliamentary election. The report concluded that "overall the elections failed to meet a number of key OSCE commitments for democratic elections." Defeated opposition candidates alleged widespread falsification and refused to acknowledge the official results, which deprived the AHCP and Musavat of the handful of parliament mandates they previously held, as legal and valid.

Kerimli also proposed affirming "moral support for the population of Arab countries who have risen up to struggle against tyrants." Referring to developments in Tunisia and Egypt, he stressed that "the world is changing. This should be a message to the Azerbaijani government. Democratization is a global process and it cannot be halted anywhere … . The authorities should understand that the people will no longer tolerate arbitrary police [violence]."

Kerimli specifically condemned the recent wave of arrests, apparently on fabricated charges, of members of the unregistered Islamic Party of Azerbaijan.

Commenting on the opposition leaders' statements, Ali Hasanov, who heads the social-political department within the presidential administration, denied any similarity between the situation in Azerbaijan and that in Tunisia, Caucasus Knot reported.

In an interview with eight days earlier, Hasanov accused the opposition of seeking to bring about "a rerun of what happened in Tunis." Hasanov claimed opposition parties are prepared "to support any attempts directed against the state and the government," including by "supporting religious extremism."

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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