Our Analytics 1 april — 12:45

How Ali Karimli played into Ilham Aliyev's hands (Thoughts after rally)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV

The history of the Azerbaijani opposition, the national democrats (and there was no other formalized political force in Azerbaijan), consists of boycotts alone. This is such a peaceful Gandhian form of polite protest. Heydar Aliyev was in power for almost 10 years. But the traditional opponents of the Aliyev course refused to participate in the presidential elections in 1993 and in 1998. Naturally, after the inglorious year-long rule, the adherents of the Elchibey camp had no chance of success in the fall of 1993. After all, Aliyev was summoned to power by Elchibey himself and his entourage.

Elchibey waited impatiently for Heydar Aliyev

But in 1998 the opposition had all chances to make a worthy competition to the authorities. Subsequently, the unexpected and unjustified, although it might be said dizzying success of the almost forgotten Etibar Mammadov in the 1998 election stunned the leaders of the national democrats themselves. The boycott tactics proved to be a failure, the protest electorate showed great will to get involved in the electoral process.

Why did the national democrats and the erring oligarchs in the person of Rasul Guliyev and the newly liberal brethren that joined them insisted on boycotting? The opposition naively believed that by abandoning the elections it would be able to attract international attention, get the authorities to change the electoral legislation, and undermine the legitimacy of the election and the newly elected president. The world was different, almost unipolar. And the absolute political influence of the West in Azerbaijan created naive illusions and unfounded hopes for a boycott, as an effective instrument in the de-legitimization of power.

But even then, in the era of absolute domination of the West and Aliyev's natural dependence on the assessment of Western institutions that determined the world politics, the tactics of boycotting the election did not work and remained inconclusive. There was an impression of the impotence of the opposition, entangled in a series of incoherent and not entirely logical actions.

If the boycott was designed for a political intifada, in the fall of 1998, just two months before the election, the national democrats reached the maximum radicalization of the situation and mobilization of a broad protest electorate. But suddenly, Elchibey and Gambar unexpectedly held a separate meeting, at which they made an inexplicable decision about the end of the struggle. Supporters were removed from the streets, the intifada was hacked down and created all the prerequisites for the successful completion of the project of the authorities. All these pathological political games played a role in popularization of the current version of the separate cooperation of many opposition leaders with the authorities. There was a sense of some kind of finesse, a connection that strengthened the conspiracy theory: tame opposition leaders play into the authorities' hands and deliberately undermine the street protest.

The election of 2003 became the apogee of this strange struggle for power. Magically managing the mindset of hundreds of thousands of protesters in the Gelebe (victory) square in the center of the capital, presidential candidate Isa Gambar suddenly refuses to clash with the authorities, dissolves his camp and arranges a ritual political action - a bloody and generally predetermined theatrical performance involving a handful of his supporters, opening the way for new victories of his opponents.

Elchibey and Gambar stopped the intifada

Since 2003, instead of the duo Elchibey-Gambar, a less attractive, more conflict leader appears on the proscenium with a tarnished reputation of a conspirator and an opportunist - Ali Karimli. If the cooperation between Elchibey and Gambar with the authorities could only be guessed - they played on the stage too believably - then Kerimli did not hide his cooperation with various centers in the ruling elite.

What does A.Karimli do? He continues to play politics of a militant boycott, but on a much smaller scale. National Democrats boycott the 2008 election, and in 2013, a 'national Havel' Rustam Ibrahimbayov, invented by another renegade, is rushing to the first roles hastily. Even the most zealous supporters of Ali Karimli realized that this leader was not able to unite the social base of the traditional opposition and mobilize the protest electorate. The masses will not follow the schismatic and inconsistent politician. Who betrayed once! But eventually, even Ibrahimbayov returns to the desired theory of the boycott, and the opposition puts forward a completely absurd figure as their presidential candidate - a boring provincial professor of modern history who once betrayed his party and opposition for the sake of one deputy mandate. In the battle is one Jamil Hasanli. And of course, the opposition is totally losing the 2013 election. The bet on the absurd historian-ex-deputy is an evil joke, an almost obscenely monstrous comedy of recent years. Pay attention, the main person in the opposition, Ali Karimli, again shies away from the fight and direct clash with the authorities, in fact boycotting the election, putting on the front flank a dummy candidate.

Who believes Karimli? Who believes in Karimli?

And finally, the election of 2018. The president did not have time to sign a decree on holding elections, as Ali Karimli and his supporters again declared boycott. The opposition again plays into the authorities' hands. Even without the special talents of political forecasting and analysis, it was possible to calculate the current situation in order to understand: with the current domestic political situation, limited resources, general apathy, limited social base and organic disintegration of the protest electorate, to cherish the hope of organizing resistance is not only a frivolous venture or adventure, but a clear recklessness!

This could already be realized in the autumn of last year, on trial protest actions of the opposition, which, at best, collected 3-5 thousand protesters. After the announced referendum on constitutional amendments in the period of the peak of the financial and economic crisis, the opposition failed not only to unravel the situation and realize the idea of an 'increasing snowball,' but also to collect under its banners a miserable part of the protest mass dissatisfied with the crisis.

The question is: what could change in six months? Unlike the authorities, the opposition relies, as always, on a chance. As in the most sensational revelation of Karimli's comrade-in-arms, Gultekin Hajibeyli: 'If 30 thousand people came out today, we would change the situation in the country.' If, if only... The oppositionists are still in their limited enchanted illusory pathetic world, being detached from reality. They think that they live in a country that is pregnant with a revolution. Not understanding and not feeling under the country of a virgin nature! They do not analyze their own mistakes, do not take an alternative position, reject the obvious, and prefer to believe in what they want, denying the real situation in the country. The people will not follow them. Maybe after another force they may go, but not after them, not after Ali Karimli. Too often they killed the people's faith, too often they killed the nascent protest in the soul of the people. Yes, of course, in Azerbaijan, as in any other country of the world, there is a part of the population discontented with the government. But this part does not believe the opposition even more.

Stalemate situation? Maybe stalemate, but predictable. The people withdrew from the political struggle. This struggle and this game is alien to it, is not its own, too far from the truths.

Just a handful, a drop in the sea, a few

And today Ali Karimli with his boycott played into the authorities' hands. Are you talking about dissatisfied people in the country? They are only 1500. A handful, a drop in the sea, a few. It's time to flip through the page in the calendar. Until the next boycott!

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