09/10/2008 - D-7
7 people are officially running in the presidential election on 15th October next in Azerbaijan:
- Ilham Alyev, outgoing Head of State and leader of the New Azerbaijan Party;
- Igbal Agazade, chairman of the Umid Party (Hope);
- Fazil Gazanfaroghlu, chairman of the Great Creation Party, supported by Adalat, led by Ilyas Ismavilov;
- Gudrat Hasangukiev, chairman of the Popular Front of United Azerbaijan;
- Hafiz Haciev, chairman of the Muasir Musavat Party (Modern Equality);
- Fouad Aliev, chairman of the Liberal Democrat Party;
- Gulamhusein Alibayi, former chair of the Popular Front who left his party on 8th August last in order to stand as an independent candidate. He has just founded a new party Aylindar (Intelligentsia).
144 000 manats (around 129 000 €) from the State budget will be distributed between five of the seven candidates. Gudrat Hasangukiev and Hafiz Haciev have been deprived of these funds for not having reimbursed the State during the last presidential election on 5th October 2003 as stipulated in the electoral law when they won under 3% of the vote (0.8% and 0.5% respectively). Hafiz Haciev has guaranteed that his party had a sufficient number of wealthy members and that this measure, against which he is protesting, would not prevent him nor any other candidate from campaigning.
Green Party leader, Mais Gulalyev was not given permission to run since the Electoral Commission deemed that at least 7,600 of the 44,000 signatures he had collated to stand as a candidate were not valid. He has asked his supporters not to take part in the election. In his opinion the candidates running in this electoral campaign are not aware of the country's greatest problems.
Igbal Agazade also experienced a period when his candidature was threatened. The chair of Umid was accused by New Azerbaijan of having infringed the electoral code when it distributed CD's calling to vote for him. Igbal Agazade denounced the presence of Ramiz Mehdiev, president of the Central Electoral Commission and of Ali Hasanov, head of the presidential team's policy department at the pre-electoral event organised in September by New Azerbaijan. According to electoral law officials are not allowed to take part in the campaign.
Just one week before the election outgoing President Ilham Alyev is the major favourite. The head of State who has chosen "Forwards with Ilham" as his motto is campaigning on the results he has achieved after five years of government. "In the years to come we shall focus our work on several themes. Stability will be maintained and we guarantee the country's democratic development and its modernisation, by enhancing security and continuing economic and social reform," repeats Ilham Alyev who has re-iterated his desire to make Azerbaijan an element of stability and peace in the Caucasus.
Ilham Alyev has received the support of Seyid Jamal Azimbeili, former member of the praesidium of the opposition party Musavat from which he resigned after the party decided to boycott the election; he also has the support of Flora Karimova, an artist and former MP and former member of the Traditional Popular Front. "It is my duty to vote for someone who is interested in the Republic. I approve the foreign policy undertaken by the President and it cannot be denied that Ilham Alyev has done a great deal for our country," she said. The head of State also has the support of Ana Vatan (Homeland) led by Fazil Aghamaly, the Social Prosperity Party, the former opposition party Terregi led by Chingiz Damiroglu, Yurddash, opposition party Mayis Safarli, and the Vahdat Party led by Tahir Kerimli. Finally the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Russia which rallies 70 organisations across the country has called for a vote in favour of Ilham Alyev.
Each candidate has air time on TV and radio as well as space in several newspapers for his electoral campaign. However the pre-electoral report published by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has highlighted the lack of political pluralism in the media. According to the OSCE opposition candidates lack profile whilst the outgoing President is omnipresent. Hence the newspaper Bakinsky rabochiy dedicates 80% of its articles to Ilham Alyev, the newspaper Azerbaijan, 60% and the Respublika Khalg, 53%. The various opposition parties who have chosen to boycott the election have been refused the right to involvement in the campaign contrary to their request. Only the official candidates are allowed to take part. Around 600 international observers will be present to monitor the democratic nature of the election.
Several opposition parties have chosen to boycott the presidential election including Musavat (Equality), a party led by Isa Gambar, Ilham Alyev's main opponent in the presidential election on 17th October 2003 (he won 14% of the vote in comparison with 76.8% for Ilham Alyev); the National Independence Party led by Ali Oruyev; the Traditional Popular Front led by Mirmakhmud Miraliogla; the Open Society Party founded by Rasul Gulyev and led by Akif Shahbzov; the Democratic Party led by Sardar Jalaloglu; the Civil Solidarity Party; the Establishment Party; the Social Democratic Party; the Public Forum for Azerbaijan led by Eldar Namazov and Azadliq (Freedom), a coalition that rallies the Popular Front led by Ali Kerimli, the Citizens and Development Party and National Unity. These parties denounce the organisation of the election which they believe to be unfair. They are asking for a better representation of the opposition forces within the local electoral commissions.
The opposition is however greatly divided and weakened due to the personal ambitions of the various leaders even though several members – the Liberal Party, the Popular Front; the Civil Solidarity Party, Musavat and the Public Forum for Azerbaijan have decided to join forces in a United Front of Democratic Forces and signed a document on 5th September in which they acknowledge the illegitimate nature of the election on 15th October.
The leader of the Caucasus Muslims, Sheikh Haji Allahshukur Pashazazde has called on the Azerbaijanis to vote. He has not named the candidate he prefers but he did say however: "the people know which candidate is the right one."
According to the most recent poll undertaken by the research centre ELS, 86.3% of the Azerbaijanis intend to vote for outgoing President Ilham Alyev. The other six candidates are due to win few votes: 2.3% for the chair of Umid, Igbal Agazade; 1.1% for Gudrat Hasangukyev leader of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan; 0.9% for Hafiz Haciev (Muasir Musavat) as well as for Fazil Gazanfaroghlu (Great Creation Party); 0.6% for the independent candidate Gulamhusein Alibayi and finally 0.5% for the chair of the Liberal Democrat Party, Fouad Alyev.
Since he does not have any real rival Ilham Alyev will probably be re-elected for a new five year term in office. The real issue at stake lies in the result he achieves: will it be more or less than the 76.8% he won during the election on 5th October 2003?