Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 172

On September 19 President Haidar Aliev addressed a mass rally of his supporters, the first such in the current presidential election campaign. In asking for a second presidential mandate, Aliev dwelt on the themes of experience in statesmanship and continuity in government. He listed the accomplishments of his presidency as: ending anarchy and armed violence, guaranteeing internal stability, consolidating Azerbaijan’s independence, bringing massive foreign investments into the country, creating the basis for economic recovery and pursuing a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Aliev contrasted this record to the chaos that prevailed when the current opposition was in power (1992-93). He also accused some opposition groups of risking renewed chaos in the hope of returning to power.

The president admitted to certain “shortcomings” and “mistakes” during his first term, pledging to correct them in a second term. Aliev also stressed his record as the leader of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1983–a message aimed at the many voters who experience nostalgia for that era’s guaranteed employment and social safety net. The ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party and other pro-government associations gathered more than 50,000 voters for the event held in the motor race stadium on Baku’s outskirts.

On September 20 the main opposition parties–led by the Popular Front and Musavat–organized a mass procession and rally in Baku. They called for a boycott of the October 11 balloting, postponement of the election, Aliev’s resignation, creation of equitable conditions for all parties in the campaign and release of opposition activists arrested during the September 12 clashes with the police. This time the opposition gave up the demand to hold its rally in Azadlyg square and nowhere else–an attitude that had sparked those clashes. Attendance figures for yesterday’s procession ranged from 50,000 (the opposition’s count) to 15,000 (the authorities’ count).

The main opposition parties and some small allied groups are boycotting the election–even though the authorities have met almost all of the opposition’s demands to change the electoral legislation and other laws. The opposition feels that the advantages of incumbency predetermine the outcome in Aliev’s favor. Meanwhile five other candidates are campaigning against Aliev on national television and through meetings with voters (Turan, Assa-Irada, international agencies, September 19 and 20).