Aliyev favoured for Azerbaijan election

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Aliyev favoured for Azerbaijan election

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A presidential election anywhere in the world normally generates acres of headlines, but the political situation Azerbaijan is far from normal.
Not only has the opposition voice been silenced in the run-up to this vote, the parties are boycotting the election anyway, swamped by the wave of campaign messages supporting incumbent President Ilham Aliyev. He has been in the job since 2003, when he succeeded his father Haydar, and he is determined to stay.

Azerbaijan is a vital player in the global village. Rich in oil and gas, sandwiched between resurgent Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan is strategically-important to the west. This former Soviet state has taken its time to emerge from years of communist control. But the recent surge in oil prices has finally produced a burgeoning middle class, happy to support President Aliyev.

There are other candidates but they are all Aliyev loyalists, and are certainly not intended to win. Aliyev’s only problem is how to dress up his anticipated victory if the opposition refuses to take part?

Isa Gambar is the leader of the Musavat opposition group.

“It is a joke, the authorities are playing out the idea of an election, and observers have their own roles to perform, pretending that something like real elections are taking place,” he complains.

Other opposition figures, including Ali Kerimli from the Popular Front, prefers to criticise the west, for ignoring what is going on in Azerbaijan.

“Why should there be more concern about elections in Zimbabwe, or democracy in Pakistan?” he says. “Why are no questions being asked about Azerbaijan, which is closer to Europe, and wants to join NATO? Why is there complete indifference to democracy in our country?”

Azerbaijan treads a difficult road, eager to shrug off its Soviet past but uncertain of its independent future. Its oil wealth brings riches, but perhaps only for a few, as much of a hindrance as a help.