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New Opposition Alliance Established in Azerbaijan

Former Azerbaijani parliament speaker Rasul Quliyev has thrown his hat in with the new opposition alliance.
Former Azerbaijani parliament speaker Rasul Quliyev has thrown his hat in with the new opposition alliance.
Representatives of five extra-parliamentary opposition parties met on January 12 in Baku to formalize the creation of a new Resistance Movement for a Democratic Society.

Nonetheless, it is questionable how effective this movement will prove in a situation where the authorities have succeeded in sidelining all genuine opposition and society is, to quote analyst and opposition Public Chamber member Zafar Quliyev, prey to civic passivity, politically indifferent and socially disorganized.

The five parties in question are:

• The Classical Popular Front Party headed by Mirmahmud Miralioglu, a veteran political figure who was devoted to Azerbaijan Popular Front chairman and former President Abulfaz Elchibey.

• Aydinlar, founded in 2008 by Qulamhuseyn Alibeyli, also a former close associate of Elchibey. Alibeyli was elected to parliament in 1995 and 2000, and in that capacity was a member of Azerbaijan's delegation to the Council of Europe, according to the online daily on September 24, 2008. Aydinlar participated in the November 2010 parliamentary election as a member of the Karabakh opposition bloc together with the Umid (Hope) party and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan but failed to win a single seat.

• The Open Society party created in 2007 by exiled former parliament speaker Rasul Quliyev (no relation to Zafar), who recently announced a political comeback. Quliyev claims to be 100 percent certain of his chances of success in the Azerbaijani presidential election due in the fall of 2013.

• The Liberal Democratic Party founded in 1999. Its chairman is Fuad Aliyev.

• Azadliq (not to be confused with the now defunct eponymous opposition bloc), headed by Akmad Oruc. Oruc is chairman of the consultative body Union in the Name of Democracy founded in 2007.

Oruc says the new movement's objective is to reform election legislation and create conditions for holding democratic elections. Quliyev, however, who participated in the January 12 meeting by telephone from the United States, cited different priorities, namely resolving the Karabakh conflict and fighting corruption.

Quliyev and Miralioglu both affirmed the new movement's readiness to cooperate with the Public Chamber established one year earlier.

Oruc, by contrast, has spoken disparagingly both of the Public Chamber, and of the opposition Musavat Party, which is one of the most prominent forces within it.

For his part, veteran Musavat Party leader Isa Qambar has argued that for the sake of expediency "all democratic forces should align under the aegis of the Public Chamber."

​In contrast to the new Resistance Movement, the Public Chamber brings together several of the "big names" among the opposition, including Qambar, Azerbaijan Popular Front leader Ali Kerimli, former opposition parliament deputy Panah Huseyn, the author of a "road map" for a peaceful transition to democracy, and respected Islamic cleric Ilgar Ibragimoglu.

It is true that unsanctioned protests organized by the Public Chamber were systematically dispersed by police, and over a dozen participants have been jailed.

The Public Chamber has nonetheless succeeded in bringing together under its banner people of widely diverging views, according to Kerimli.

"Nationalists, believers, atheists, leftists, rightists, -- all those who want change, regardless of their political views, are with us," Kerimli told a meeting earlier this month to review the Chamber's activities in 2011.

Addressing that meeting, Qambar raised the possibility of calling for the resignation of President Ilham Aliyev, while Kerimli argued that "regime change in Azerbaijan must become our basic slogan."

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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