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Is Azerbaijan Next?

As Azerbaijan gears up for parliamentary elections on November 6, the main question is whether the country is about to undergo its own “color” revolution, along the lines of those that have overthrown post-Soviet elites in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan in the last two years. Such an outcome cannot be ruled out, but the prospects are uncertain at best.

Azerbaijan’s ruling party, Eni Azerbaijan, faces challenges all around, despite the support of President Ilham Aliyev and privileged access to state resources. At least three opposition parties – Isa Gambar’s “Mussavat,” Ala Keremela’s “The National Front, and the Social Democratic Party – have maintained support and political influence since Ilham succeeded his late father, Heydar Aliyev, in 2003.

Moreover, like Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, dynastic politics in Azerbaijan reflects the dominance of clans whose members’ success is determined by proximity to the president. While such systems may appear stable, they are inherently fragile, for they are synonymous with lawlessness, injustice, and abject poverty for the majority of the population.

The opposition has already started preparing the ground for change. The leaders of the three-party opposition bloc Azadlyg (Freedom) have declared that they will regard any electoral outcome that gives opposition parties less than 70% of the vote as having been falsified, and that street protests would follow. This would conform to the pattern seen in Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine in 2004.