Thursday, July 14, 2005

Western Pressure for Democratic Elections in Azerbaijan

Eurasianet also covers Albright's visit to Azerbaijan and then some. Unfortunately, since the U.S. started to talk about "freedom" in this part of the world, many in Armenia took it as a call to "revolution" before getting upset when they discovered that it wasn't. Instead, it was about democracy, the rule of law and international pressure for real democratic change in the run-up to – and also during – elections.
[...] as visiting PACE rapporteur Andreas Gross pointed out on 8 July, the West wants any change to come through the ballot box. "Today, we have to speak about elections," he said. "And those who would like to change anything should engage in elections and not speak about revolution."

Azerbaijan’s government has made several concessions to the opposition ahead of the elections. These include the right to hold peaceful opposition rallies and the release of more than 200 political prisoners since the beginning of the year.

Nevertheless, observers say Azerbaijani leaders appear inclined to block further reforms. They note that parliament on June 28 passed amendments to the country’s electoral law that did not include changes to the makeup of the country’s election commissions. The election commissions are seen as leaning too far in the government’s favor.

Speaking after meetings with the Azerbaijani opposition, Albright highlighted this issue: "There has been a very consistent message, and the message is the necessity for the [Central] Electoral Commission to be a truly independent commission that can help in making clear that the elections are free and fair and open, and a desire for there to be greater diversity in political participation."
Besides, I never saw what happened in Georgia and Ukraine as "revolution." Instead, what happened was that people within those two societies stood up and refused to accept the outcome of falsified elections. People acted within the law and the constitution, although what happened in Georgia is a little more debatable, and because of that, the West monitored procedings and did all it could to prevent the situation from turning nasty.

Basically, you cannot expect democratic forces to come to power through undemocratic means – on both sides of the political divide. I would imagine, therefore, that unless there is a real political and constitutional crisis as a result of the local elections and constitutional referendum in Armenia towards the end of the year, Armenia will be in the same position as Azerbaijan is now, in 2007.

Until then, what happens in November is a good case study to examine for what might happen in Armenia during the 2007 parliamentary elections. The full article can be read online here.

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