On May 6, the official date for the next parliamentary elections was announced in Azerbaijan. According to the spokesman of the central election commission, Azer Sariyev, the next elections for the legislative body of the country will be held on November 7 (Trend News Agency, May 6).
Although, according to law, the official election campaign will start only 75 days prior to voting day, the opposition parties in the country have spent the last several months discussing various options for coalition building. In that respect, the situation is reminiscent of many previous elections, in which the small, divided opposition parties engage in endless talks about partnership and forget about election tactics, such as message development, communication and the organization of a proper door-to-door campaign. Most of their attention and energy is spent on fighting each other on the pages of opposition dailies, rather than meeting with voters. As a result, the elections always end in deep disappointment for the fragmented opposition forces.
The main current debate appears to be unfolding between the key opposition forces in the country –the Musavat and Popular Front parties. These eternal rivals have ceased cooperation since the last parliamentary elections due to Musavat’s participation in the work of the newly elected parliament, whereas the Popular Front adopted a more radical stance and called for the boycott of the election results. The opposition daily, Yeni Musavat, reported on May 7 that the chairmen of both parties have met to discuss bilateral cooperation and possibly joint campaigning in the elections. The same newspaper quoted the Musavat Chairman, Isa Gambar, as saying that it is too early to talk about any concrete results. However, it is important that the two parties meet and discuss the political situation in the country and hear each other’s opinions. The strained relations between the two parties can be judged by the fact that the Popular Front party still refuses to talk to journalists working for the Yeni Musavat newspaper, which was founded by Isa Gambar.
Meanwhile, a Member of Parliament from the opposition group Panah Huseyn, always known for his pro-Musavat stance, has criticized Isa Gambar for not uniting the opposition. He said that Isa Gambar is viewed as the only figure capable of uniting the opposition parties. In that respect, Gambar should not focus on the marginal interests of his own party but instead consider the unity of the entire opposition (Yeni Musavat, May 4). Arif Hacili, the head of Musavat’s central executive apparatus replied: “This statement is a hit to the newly emerging unity of the opposition” (www.day.az, May 7). Earlier in the week, Musavat and the Alliance in the name of Democracy, a coalition of a few very small opposition parties, led by Panah Huseyn, signed a protocol on cooperation in the upcoming elections. Yet, immediately after the signing ceremony, Panah Huseyn announced his dissatisfaction with the pace of cooperation, namely in the area of agreeing on the unified candidates in the election districts.
The ruling Yeni Azerbaijani Party seems to be untouched by these developments. Vice Parliamentary Speaker, Bahar Muradova, and member of the party, told the state news agency Azertac on May 3 that the political situation in the country can be considered as normal and that all preparations are being made for the elections. “But it would be better if the opposition forces did not look for help outside the country, but inside, among the Azeri people. Otherwise, their defeat is irreversible,” Muradova suggested.
Deputy Chairman of the ruling party, Ali Ahmadov, said that the party will be implementing many innovations in the upcoming elections. One of these will be the active participation of women and youths in the election process, both as candidates as well as voters, campaign workers and observers. “We tried this innovation in the last municipal elections in 2009 and the results were very positive. The number of women candidates has increased from 4 percent to 28 percent,” Ahmadov explained. Outlining other innovations, Ahmadov said that the election strategy of the party will be based upon steady economic growth and the well-being of the country and its citizens (Trend News Agency, May 5).
It appears that the election process in Azerbaijan may pass calmly in 2010. The ruling party seems more confident than ever, due to the continuous economic growth in the country. Opposition parties are bickering and divided as always. Most attention will now be paid to the details of the election process, rather than its anticipated outcome.