The elections for parliament in Azerbaijan are now over. Now the difficult part of tallying the votes begins. The prospective sides are taking their predictable positions. Officials from the governing Yeni Azerbaijan Party insist that the elections were fair and square, while the opposition parties claim that nothing of the sort occurred. All of this proves that the counting process will surely be a lengthy process.
All of the twists and turns of the run up to and aftermath of the elections can confuse an interested watcher. So to provide some navigation through the storm, here are a few places where one can find news of the Azerbaijan elections in English:
I’ve already mentioned Radio Free Europe’s special coverage as a valuable source for news. In addition, I also recommend EurasiaNet.org’s special section on the Azeri elections. Their page has a lot of good resources including a breakdown of the political parties, facts about Azerbaijan and Azeri politics, as well as in-depth news coverage and analysis.
More news about the elections will undoubtedly be covered by the various Russian/CIS news sites on the right of this blog.
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By Sean — 13 years ago
The votes are counted. The winners declared. Now comes the fun part: the analysis. There isn’t much to say about the Kazakh Presidential election which isn’t already evident. There was no colored revolution. There wasn’t even an attempt at protest. The ballots were certainly stuffed. As “Presedatel’ Mike” pointed out in his post, President Nursultan Nazarbaev is truly loved but this didn’t prevent making sure he received 91 percent of the vote. Hence, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) statement that “Despite some improvements in the administration of this election in the pre-election period, the presidential election did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.” We all know democracy in the CIS states is a sham, but the question, as posed by RFE/RL reporter Daniel Kimmage, is about the long term viability of “managed democracy.” On this, Kimmage writes,
“Political upheaval in
Georgia, Ukraine, and in 2003-05 highlighted the risk of catastrophic failure that comes with “managed democracy,” in which ruling elites accept elections as necessary for legitimacy but do everything in their power to predetermine the outcome. But what happens when the system avoids catastrophic failure? Does it tend toward gradual reform? Or does it degenerate, ensuring ever more splendid victories for the status quo even as it undermines competitiveness and thus retains the risk of an eventual catastrophic failure?” Kyrgyzstan
All important questions and their outcome remains to be seen. Now as before reforms to the Kazakh system lie in Nazarbaev’s will to push them forward. And despite his assurances that reforms will proceed, there is no telling when they, even if remotely genuine, will eventually contradict the personality cult of Nazarbaev himself has created.
Analysis of the short and long term meaning of the Moscow City Duma elections are also coming in. I first want to comment on today’s LA Times editorial. As I’ve noted before, my home paper does some really good reporting on Russia. However, this quality doesn’t extend to the editorial pages. Today’s edition features yet another broken record plea for the Bush Administration to tackle the problem of Russian “democracy.” The problem with the Times’ editorial is not that it argues that Russian democracy is faltering. The problem is how this analysis implies that there was once a democracy to falter. The title “CPR for Russian Democracy” suggests just that. Considering past LA Times’ editorials on this subject, the implied meaning is that before Putin there was democracy, but since his arrival it needs resuscitation. Can they surely be so na?ve to think that the Yeltsin regime was more democratic to even suggest that Russian democracy is “nascent”? By that definition, democracy should be seen as flourishing in say Venezuela, but you won’t find such statements in the Times. So where does this nascent before and authoritarian after come from? From what I can gather from this and past editorials, it comes from the fact that during Yeltsin’s presidency Russia was acting in the interests of the United States and now it has the gall to act in its own interest! After all why would Bush need to put pressure on Putin to change “authoritarian” ways when Bush surely has no problem when his allies in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are doing far worse? Yes they are right. The US government should stop referring to Russia as a democracy. Then we can finally stop beating that dead horse and see Russia for what it is and not what we want it to be.
If you want some good analysis of the Moscow elections, I suggest turning to today’s Moscow Times. Two articles stand out. The first is an analysis of what parties received Rodina’s votes. The conclusion is that Rodina’s ban from participating only benefited the Communists, whose nationalistic platform is almost indistinguishable. But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Rodina was created by the Kremlin to siphon nationalist votes from the KPRF so it is only logical that with Rodina dropped from the ticket sympathetic voters would swing back. The question is then, if Rodina’s ban came from “above” as many suspect, what did United Russia have to gain from it? If anything it would have been better if Rodina stayed on the ticket. Instead, the KPRF, which is United Russia’s most serious political rival, surged to capture 17 percent of the vote and gain four seats.
The second article, an editorial by Nikolai Petrov, looks at the factors that gave the elections their importance, of which he names four: 1) the first election after the passage of electoral reform, 2) a test where the political parties stand, 3) a preview for the 2008 mayoral elections, and 4) establishing new campaigning models for the 2007 parliamentary elections.
The first was mired by what Petrov and others call “dirty tricks”—voter fraud on various levels, multiple voting, stuffing ballot boxes. This according to Petrov made the post-reform electoral system “far worse.” For the second, Yuri Lukhkov’s and United Russia’s political dominance was confirmed, especially for the former, who will undoubtedly be able to hand pick his successor and well be consulted in choosing a suitable presidential heir.
Perhaps what benefits United Russia in the polls is not the corruption, but the fact that it stands for nothing. Its power is based on the popularity of both Lukhkov and Putin, Russia’s perceived prosperity, and stabilization. As Petrov notes, United Russia, unlike its foes, has no ideology. And for an electorate that grew up in a society where ideology was everything, this might be its most appealing factor.
The ruling party’s anti-ideological or perhaps better, apolitical strategy won’t bode well for Russia’s future. There are serious issues that need addressing in Moscow in particular and Russia in general, and like Kazakhstan much of their mending lies on the backs of a few political personalities. And given the path that Russian politics is taking—between the fanaticism of the far right and left, to the ideology-light of the center—there is little hope that these will be addressed in the near future.Post Views: 431
By Sean — 13 years ago
Nalchik has rightly dominated the news this week. But a lot of other newsworthy events have occurred. Here is the brief weekly rundown of some of things that I found interesting.
, a Peruvian student was a killed and two other foreign students were injured in an attack by skinheads. In response, 200 Voronezh students rallied this week to denounce racism and xenophobia. This is just coming over Interfax: on Friday, a group of skinheads recently attacked a group of Muslim prayer house in Sergiyev Posad in Voronezh and brutally beat up leader of the local Muslim organization Arsan Sadriyev. Moscow
—It seems that the
U.S.government is trying to save face after being thrown out of . As I reported last week, Condi Rice dropped Uzbekistan from her Central Asian trip. Now she says that the Uzbekistan U.S.doesn’t need those bases anyway and bases in Afghanistanand can pick up the slack. She also vowed to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that the Kyrgyzstan U.S.won’t seek to build more bases in Central Asia. This all may be true, but the fact of the matter is that may not need a military base, but it won’t refuse one either. Now it seems that the new Kyrgyz government is questioning the necessity of a U.S. base in its country. U.S.
—Corporate criminal Mikhail Khordokovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were sent to prison this week to serve their eight year sentences for fraud and tax evasion. The past few weeks have further revealed the State’s heavy handedness when dealing with them. Khodokovsky’s appeal was thrown out. His lawyer’s offices were raided by the
police. There is speculation that more charges will be filed against him. There are charges that prison guards mistreated Lebedev. Interfax is reporting that a source from Khodokovsky family says that he will be sent to Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region and Lebedev will be in Chita Oblast. Russian officials have denied this news, saying that both will serve their term in a prison around Moscow . Moscow
—Russian Profile has an interesting article about Russians and sex. Though
Russiahas been bombarded with images of sex since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they still remain in dark when it concerns sex education. A recent survey revealed these facts about Russians and sex:
“The 2003 Durex global sex survey, which interviewed over 150,000 people in 34 countries, reveals some startling facts about Russian sexuality. Out of all the countries surveyed, Russia had the highest percentage of respondents who said they would sleep with a new partner on the first night (39 percent) and Russians were more likely than any other nationality to have had sex with their best friend’s partner (18 percent).
was also the country with the lowest average age of first sexual contact.” Russia
So Russians are doing it and doing it a lot. However, sex education continues to be seen as too controversial to be taught in schools. This has led to many Russians to go on believing in a number of rather dangerous myths:
“A survey of over 4,000 young Russians from 10 Russian regions, undertaken by Focus-Media Foundation in February, found that only 33 percent of sexually active respondents had always used condoms for sex over the preceding six months. Twenty-two percent did not realize that unprotected oral sex carries a risk, and over a quarter agreed that “if a person is fated to contract HIV, a condom won’t help.” The survey also revealed that 95 percent of young Russians felt they would like to know more about safe sex. With as many as 1 million Russians estimated to be HIV positive, simply ignoring sex education does not really seem like an option.”
Further, the article notes that while
Russiaremains a very homophobia society, things are changing according to Dmitry Gubin, editor-in-chief of FHM . He points to the emergence of the Russian “metrosexual” and the opening of more gay clubs as a positive indication. As if we didn’t have enough metrosexuals here in Russia . . . Los Angeles
—Finally, Russia Profile has reprinted an interview from Novaya Gazeta with Alexei Levinson from the Levada Center Polling Agency on the issue of Russian civil society. The question of civil society is a long standing one. Many historians blame the rise of revolutionary politics and the Bolshevik revolution on the lack of a liberal civil society in late 19th century
. I personally don’t subscribe to this idea of the Russian sonderweg, but the issue persists to inform how people think about Russian political society now. Some of Levinson’s more interesting comments is the following. When asked if “civil society” is merely a phantom, he had this to say: Russia
“The civil society people dreamed of 10-15 years ago doesn’t exist in
today. We’re seeing an entirely different process: a passive society which may simply be termed “the population” is generating interest groups that bear some resemblance to civil society structures. But this process isn’t following the paths known from the history of other countries. In Russia , the first societal groups to emerge and take shape have been those known as criminal structures. They became aware of their goals and formulated them, and now they are pursuing those goals politically, sometimes even via parliamentary channels. Russia
The people believe that the big organized crime groups have their own laws and abide by them. “Look, there’s more order in organized crime than in the bureaucracy” – that’s an opinion I’ve heard hundreds of times from poll respondents.”
Not much, it seems, has changed in post-Soviet
from the mafia governance the Communist Party provided in Soviet Russia. Such a view doesn’t give much comfort to those hoping, no, praying for a liberal Russia . RussiaPost Views: 1,702
By Sean — 11 years ago
Perry Anderson, prominent left wing social critic and historian at UCLA, has written an insightful analysis of Putin’s Russia for the London Review of Books. I recently translated an interview Anderson gave to Kommersant, and in the LRB piece he elaborates on some of the ideas he presented there. I highly recommend reading it. It’s quite lucid and thick. Not to mention the guy can just flat out write. Here is an opening excerpt:
Under lowering skies, a thin line of mourners stretched silently outside the funeral hall. Barring the entrance, hulking riot police kept them waiting until assorted dignitaries – Anatoly Chubais, Nato envoys, an impotent ombudsman – had paid their respects. Eventually they were let in to view the corpse of the murdered woman, her forehead wrapped in the white ribbon of the Orthodox rite, her body, slight enough anyway, diminished by the flower-encrusted bier. Around the edges of the mortuary chamber, garlands from the media that attacked her while she was alive stood thick alongside wreaths from her children and friends, the satisfied leaf to leaf with the bereaved. Filing past them and out into the cemetery beyond, virtually no one spoke. Some were in tears. People dispersed in the drizzle as quietly as they came.
The authorities had gone to some lengths to divert Anna Politkovskaya’s funeral from the obvious venue of the Vagankovskoe, where Sakharov is buried, to a dreary precinct on the outskirts that few Muscovites can locate on a map. But how necessary was the precaution? The number of mourners who got to the Troekurovskoe was not large, perhaps a thousand or so, and the mood of the occasion was more sadness than anger. A middle-aged woman, bringing groceries home from the supermarket, shot at point-blank range in an elevator, Politkovskaya was killed for her courage in reporting the continuing butchery in Chechnya. An attempt to poison her had narrowly failed two years earlier. She had another article in press on the atrocities of the Kadyrov clan that now runs the country for the Kremlin, as she was eliminated. She lived and died a fighter. But of any powerful protest at her death, it is difficult to speak. She was buried with resignation, not fury or revolt.
In Ukraine, the discovery of the decapitated body of a journalist who had investigated official corruption, Georgi Gongadze, was sufficient outrage to shake the regime, which was brought down soon afterwards. Politkovskaya was a figure of another magnitude. A better historical comparison might be with the murder of Matteotti by Mussolini in 1924. In Russian circumstances, her moral stature as an opponent of arbitrary power was scarcely less than that of the Socialist deputy. But there the resemblance ends. The Matteotti Affair caused an outcry that nearly toppled Mussolini. Politkovskaya was killed with scarcely a ripple in public opinion. Her death, the official media explained, was either an unfathomable mystery, or the work of enemies of the government vainly attempting to discredit it. The president remarked she was a nobody whose death was the only news value in her life.
It is tempting, but would be a mistake, to see in that casual dismissal no more than the ordinary arrogance of power. All governments deny their crimes, and most are understanding of each other’s lies about them. Bush and Blair, with still more blood on their hands – in all probability, that of over half a million Iraqis – observe these precepts as automatically as Putin. But there is a difference that sets Putin apart from his fellow rulers in the G8, indeed from virtually any government in the world. On the evidence of comparative opinion polls, he is the most popular national leader alive today. Since he came to power six years ago, he has enjoyed the continuous support of over 70 per cent of his people, a record no other contemporary politician begins to approach. For comparison, Chirac now has an approval rating of 38 per cent, Bush of 36 per cent, Blair of 30 per cent.Tags: Putin|Russia|Perry Anderson|London Review of Books|journalism|human rights|democracy|economics|historyPost Views: 453