Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan: Don't hold your breath

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Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan: Don't hold your breath.

The list of candidates for the ruling party leaves little room for guessing how the new parliament will look.

The parliamentary elections that will be held in Azerbaijan this fall can be considered the first elections in the history of the independent Azerbaijan not boycotted by any opposition party. All political forces have joined the election circus, although the opposition can at best hope to win only a handful of seats.

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party, known by its Azerbaijani acronym YAP, is expected to get the majority of seats in parliament. The advantage of the ruling party chaired by President Ilham Aliyev is obvious. It has attached greater attention to intellectuals in its list this time and in contrast to other political parties and blocs, it is clearly a strategy in the list of the ruling party that YAP candidates are supported and legitimized by the party as a whole and not just a select few individuals. This is a list prepared in response to a voter consciousness formed in the past few years: Azerbaijani voters elect political forces rather than individuals. In this regard, the YAP list is no surprise.

At a closer look, the New Azerbaijan Party list of candidates shows that the ruling party intends to preserve and partially update the previous composition of the parliament. Only eighteen party members who had been elected in the previous election have not been included in the new list, some simply due to old age and others who are seen as having made "political mistakes”.

The decision by the largest two opposition parties, AXCP and Musavat, to join the election marathon as a bloc excited the passions, but the list of the bloc candidates was sobering, because it was perceived to be less impressive than the list of candidates nominated separately by these parties in 2005. This list clearly shows that the parties were weakened and lost staff, resources and self-confidence in the meantime. While, for instance, Musavat Party had been able to nominate candidates in the primaries in 2000 for every constituency, it has now decided leave many of the seats to its ally.

A similar trend can be observed in other parties and electoral blocs. Most parties represented in other coalitions have no discernible attitude, let alone aptitude, to government.

The political scenery observed on the eve of the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan is that political forces, with the exception of YAP, have little or no confidence to win the elections. Political parties in most societies start preparations for elections at least two years in advance and determine their candidates and platforms during this period. The situation on the eve of the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan is markedly different. Despite the start of the elections, the political parties have failed to determine their candidates and electoral strategies. Under the circumstances, it would be unreasonable to expect the public displays and demonstrations observed 5 years ago.

Again, independent candidates are not expected to get a significant number of seats in parliament. The election does not promise any serious change in the political map of Azerbaijan and present observations show that new political forces are not likely to appear after elections.

By Vusala Mahirqizi, General Director of Azeri Press Agency, Azerbaijan   

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