Why Ilham Aliyev wins, and opposition misses its chance once again

Mikhail Belyaev, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Why Ilham Aliyev wins, and opposition misses its chance once again

April 11 brought no surprises to Azerbaijan: the current head of the Azerbaijani state, Ilham Aliyev, won a landslide victory in the early election, thereby prolonging his presidency for the next seven years. A high turnout was fixed at the election  - according to the CEC, the voter turnout was 74.5%.

Undoubtedly, there will be malcontents and accusations of violations - it's not unusual for the entire post-Soviet space, which still falls short of Western European democratic standards. Such violations, in accordance with procedural requirements, will be investigated and, it cannot be ruled out that votes might be recounted at some polling stations - . such situation had occurred before. The OSCE/ODIHR interim and final reports, whose observers monitored the electoral process throughout the country, with the exception of the territories occupied by Armenia, may not be ideal for the government either - Baku is not one of the West's favorites, and objectively it doesn't pretend to be a democracy of the German or Dutch model.

At the same time, no serious player will put the very fact of Ilham Aliyev's landslide victory in the first round under question. After all, today it was absolutely clear to even most ardent critics of Aliyev that the incumbent president's positions are as strong as possible, even in spite of the economic problems of recent years linked to the decline in global oil prices in the conditions of the under-diversified Azerbaijani economy. People vote for the current government, as it symbolizes the political stability that is vital for improving welfare, and this contrasts sharply with the devastation and arbitrariness of the early 1990s, and the older generation associates the current radical opposition precisely with it. What is important, stability during Ilham Aliyev's rule has not become stagnation - the ruling team demonstrates willingness, will and practical steps for serious economic reforms, especially after the painful lesson of the collapsed oil prices.

Meanwhile, the current opposition, united in the National Council of Democratic Forces(NCDF), categorically refused to recognize the results of the election, which it boycotted. Such a reaction is quite logical and expected, since the bet of traditional opposition parties - the Popular Front and Musavat - on boycotting the election has clearly failed. On the contrary, having withdrawn, the opposition deliberately eased the task to the incumbent president, who, in the absence of competition, gained more than 85%. What did the opposition politicians expect, choosing such a disastrous tactic, which, rather, looks like voluntary surrender? Did Ali Kerimli, Isa Gambar, Arif Hajili or Jamil Hasanli seriously believe that by refusing to participate in the election they would put pressure on Aliyev and provoke a coordinated international reaction? One could expect such a result if the NCFD was supported by real force and strong support of people. But given that the authorized opposition rallies at the Mehsul stadium were attended by no more than a couple of thousands of supporters, according to the numerous videos and photos, the boycott turned out to be a short-sighted step. The opposition's assurances that they brought up to 15 thousand people to the square cannot withstand the most elementary verification - even blatant attempts of operators to find an advantageous angle could not mask the small number of people there.

There are real reasons for which people, having a free and mass access to cable and satellite television, the Internet and social networks, did not go to authorized opposition rallies - and even good spring weather in Baku did not inspire people to go to the Mahsul Stadium. It's not even the absence of discontent - there will always be malcontents, and their numbers are much higher than two thousand people. But the NCDF has no concepts and real political programs that would have been better than those proposed by the current government. The opposition also does not have any intellectual resources for their development, since all high-quality human resources are engaged by the power, whcih left behind the practice of blind regionalism of the 1990s and early 2000s. The opposition also failed to inspire people with speeches, even populist - especially when the traditional opposition voluntarily refuses to participate in the debate on public television and thereby loses access to a huge audience. Finally, there is no confidence in the loyalty of opposition parties to democratic ideals, about which they like to talk - after all, the opposition is led by the same people as 20 years earlier.

Another part of the opposition - the one that turned out to be more mobile and already settled in Europe, conducts its "political struggle" from outside. This struggle has been recently reduced to hanging papers on streets, in which Aliyev is called a "dictator" - in order to take a picture and publish such a testimony of unprecedented "political courage" in social networks. They do not care that missing cat and hamster posters, advertising for housing, burger and sushi ads, which are more important for European residents, will be placed on these papers in a couple of hours. The political mission is to collect likes on Facebook, which fuel the illusion of political influence. Does it make a real difference? According to the April 11 election, which were held without a hint of tension in the society, it is unlikely.


P.S.Today, the population's list of concerns are linked to the social and economic sphere, in particular, it concerns the development of industrial infrastructure in the regions of Azerbaijan and creation of new jobs. Experts say that it is possible to resolve such issues with the help of domestic investments, because over the years of sovereignty, thanks to a stable government, a powerful financial elite has developed in Azerbaijan. These people owe their present status to the founder of Azerbaijani statehood Heydar Aliyev and his son Ilham Aliyev, and to maintain the current government they should be interested in attracting competent economists in the development of successful projects in the regions, as well as direct investment in these projects. Thus, on the one hand, business will develop in the regions, generating new revenues, on the other hand, the population that has received jobs and a decent standard of living will continue to support the current government.