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Archive for the ‘Azerbaijan’ Category

Azerbaijani Democracy and Europe’s Gas Supplies

Posted by democratist on November 10, 2010

10th November 2010,

Democratist has been disappointed, but not surprised by the conduct of Azerbaijan’s parliamentary elections last Sunday, 7th November.

The results, and the way in which they were obtained, reflect a long, and now deepening tradition of post-Soviet authoritarian rule there. 

As far as we can gauge, all the standard dirty tricks were applied in abundance (media manipulation, voter intimidation, ballot-box stuffing etc.) in what was basically a textbook case of widespread and methodical electoral fraud, with an added dash of nepotism to underscore  just how little the Aliyev clan, buoyant on both the financial and geopolitical advantages of Azerbaijan’s vast oil and gas wealth, is concerned to maintain the facade of democracy for either domestic or international purposes. 

Opposition parties, predictably, took only two of the 125 legislative seats on offer, while the president’s wife, uncle, and indeed his cousin’s husband were all elected easily.

The main message of these polls therefore, was that the regime feels that its current position is so secure that is no longer answerable to anyone; neither its own citizens, nor foreigners. 

But if there are redeeming aspects to this sorry business, they are:

Firstly that, having learned from the fallout from the Azerbaijani Presidential elections in 2008, and despite expectations from many that western organizations such as the OSCE would go easy on the regime, the OSCE Election Observation Mission (EOM) did in fact stand up for the principles it embodies, spoke truth to power, and criticised these elections for the sham they were. 

In the words of the head of mission, Audrey Glover at the 8th November press conference, “Regrettably, our observation of the overall process shows that the conditions necessary for a meaningful democratic election were not established. We are particularly concerned about restrictions of fundamental freedoms, media bias, the dominance of public life by one party, and serious violations on election day.”

This is good news for the West’s somewhat tattered reputation among the Azerbaijani opposition, and for the OSCE’s reputation throughout the region.

Secondly, that both the EU (in the form of an admittedly rather weedy statement from Catherine Ashton) and the US, in a separate comment by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley, have fully backed the OSCE’s findings.

And therefore it would seem that the EU and US are less willing to put up with the regime’s shenanigans than might have been the case before the 2008 economic crisis.

But perhaps we should not be so surprised, since lower hydrocarbon prices, and the rapidly increasing diversity of Europe’s gas supplies, which are now staring to include the re-export of formerly US-bound Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) cargoes, may well be mean that the Aliyev regime’s international position is no longer as strong as it was.

Posted in Azerbaijan, Democratization, Elections, Electoral Fraud, European Union, Hydrocarbons, OSCE | 1 Comment »

Mr Hancock and the Azerbaijanis

Posted by democratist on September 1, 2010

1st September 2010

It is interesting to see that Mike Hancock MP has been in the news again;

It would appear that The Guardian is also now on the case, and is starting to ask some rather pertinent questions about Hancock’s relations with the Russians.

By way of contribution to the debate, Democratist remembers, at the time of the Azerbaijani Presidential elections in 2008, Hancock came out with the following statement – in his capacity as a PACE observer in the OSCE-led, joint Election Observation Mission – just after midday on polling day (i.e. a good eight hours before polling closed).

“The election process can be valued positively”, Member of PACE Observation Mission, British Parliamentarian Mike Hancock told APA. Stressing his observation mission during the previous elections in Azerbaijan, the British Deputy said he had observed the election process in seven polling stations in Yasamal and Sabayel districts. “I value the activity of the electoral commission members positively. It is observed that they mastered instructions on the organizing of the elections perfectly. Voters were also educated well”. Mike Hancock expressed regret that some opposition leaders did not join the elections. “It means that opposition is not active. It is not the fault of the President that some oppositional candidates did not join the elections. I consider that the opposition behaves undemocratically in these elections. It would be better if the opposition joined the elections even if they lost, because the election is important process for the political organizations”.

Quite something for one person to say, before polling had even ended – especially if they are supposed to be part of a team of several hundred people. And especially if they had been instructed not to make personal comments to the media, but rather contribute to the joint statement (as we believe is the case for all OSCE observers, even PACE MPs). Indeed, if we were more cynical, Democratist might suggest that the statement almost seemed as if it were prepared in advance.

Democratist was also informed that Mr. Hancock apparently managed (pretty much single-handedly) to make the OSCE preliminary statement on those elections far more positive than it would otherwise have been, through his influence as a PACE MP observer on the drafting process.

It is therefore also to be noted that, in addition to his cordial relations with the Russians, Mr Hancock has continued since 2008 to defend the Azerbaijani regime on many occasions.

Here’s a quick example, the relevant passage from which we reproduce below;

British deputy Michael Hancock noted that he sees Azerbaijan’s future positively and told that there is democracy in Azerbaijan. “There is democracy in Azerbaijan. Therefore, the Azerbaijani people voted for the current government. In this country there is no strong opposition, which refused to participate in the elections. The Government of Azerbaijan will continue to cooperate with the Council of Europe. In this direction is the political will of the authorities of Azerbaijan’, he said.

Posted in Azerbaijan, Democratization, Elections, OSCE, UK Foreign Policy | 3 Comments »