Our Analytics 1 february — 13:26

Ali Karimli's blunder and Ilgar Mammadov's delusion (Our analysis)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV

The opposition was in a state of manic euphoria after the rally on January 19 for a very short time. For the first time in fifteen years, Azerbaijani politicians of the times of Yeltsin, Brazauskas, Gamsakhurdia, Elchibey and other dead men gathered under their banners several thousand more supporters than the usual, adapted to the harsh opposition years, yet unchanged social base.

The Azerbaijani opposition has always deliberately substituted two political categories: the social base and the protest electorate. Of course, as with any pluralistic political system, in Azerbaijan too, a certain part of the population may be dissatisfied with the government's policy. But this does not mean at all that this stratum of the population will cast its votes for the opposition. The protest electorate is a fluctuating, sceptical part of the country's electoral corps, which in its view makes the choice between bad and worse. The main ideological mistake of the national democrats, first of all the party of Etibar Mammadov, then Musavat, and now the Popular Front Party, has been that these political forces perceived and continue to perceive the protest electorate as their solid social base.

And so, the slogans popular among the protest electorate, voiced by the opposition on the eve of the January 19 rally, made it possible to gather several thousand more participants at Mahsul (Food) Square than on all the other protest rallies. The opposition has fallen into a state of restless illusory euphoria. It seemed to it that, finally, it got up from its knees, got a new lease of life, attracted a wide part of the society, that is, the protest electorate, to a new struggle.

'The people are back in politics. And the bright proof of this is our rally on January 19,' Ali Karimli has been repeating without stopping in each of his speeches after the rally. And now, inspired by the imaginary success of January 19, the opposition launched a wide agitprop network, threatening the authorities with an equally large-scale protest rally on January 31 in the village of Novkhani.

Every year, on January 31, on the birthday of the founder of the first Republic, Mahammad Amin Rasulzadeh, opposition parties gather their supporters near the monument to the first head of the Republic. This time, the opposition promised to surprise the authorities and the world community, for some reason, manipulating parallels with the events in Venezuela. And with this parallel, opposition ideologists once again shocked the expert community. After all, how can a sane person with analytical skills compare the situation in Azerbaijan with the revolutionary elements in faraway Caracas? First, for several years now, Venezuela has been holding continuous rallies gathering millions of people. Second, the opposition in this Latin American country in the last parliamentary elections won a crushing victory over the communist party of power. And de jure until today controls the legislative branch of government. Third, the entire judiciary opposed the president... That is, even an average expert with minimal analytical skills would not seriously comment on the proposed scenario of the situation, and with irony on his face would listen to the theory of Ali Karimli and his supporters, who came out with an absurd theory of repetition in Baku of the Venezuelan variant.

Ali Karimli and Ilgar Mammadov: Their first and last meeting

By the way, this is what the newly-born liberal leader Ilgar Mammadov did, loudly slamming the door after the January 19 rally. Ilgar Mammadov was brief with his supporters: 'I will tell you when the time comes for new rallies.' And, judging by the version of the leader of a small liberal group, this time will come after a new election cycle. Not earlier than 2020.

If Ilgar Mammadov somehow hopes to attract to his side at least part of the potential protest electorate at the elections, then Ali Karimli rejects the prospect of the election process. The leader of the national democrats is more experienced in political battles. And he knows very well from personal experience that after the elections only a social base can be brought to the square. Another oddity of the Azerbaijani politics is that the protest electorate is extremely inert, not passionary and not ready for active struggle on the barricades. And it always has been so: when they were overthrowing Ayaz Mutallibov, and a year later, during the June 1993 events. After all, no one has cancelled the historical memory: on the night of March 5-6, a small crowd of people stood in front of the blocked Azerbaijani Parliament demanding the resignation of Ayaz Mutalibov. It was not a protest electorate, but a stable social base of the frontists. Alas, the then president did not have enough determination to disperse a small aggressive crowd that gathered at night bonfires on the central avenue of the capital.

Ali Karimli has no other methods of struggle. He lost the election in 2000 with a fiasco, and the authorities literally pulled the puppet Popular Front Party out of the ballot box. And in 2003 there was a failure, because Karimli, torn by the spirit of contradiction, fought more against another opponent from the opposition - Isa Gambar than against the ruling party, and made a bet on the impassable Etibar Mammadov. Later, Karimli boycotted all the elections, both parliamentary and presidential.

Karimli, realising the main feature of the specific Azerbaijani politics - the inertia of the protest electorate and its unwillingness to transform at the right time into an active social base of the opposition - cherished the doomed hope of expanding his base at the expense of the protest electorate during a non-election cycle. He continues to rely on the effect of a nascent spark of revolution in a queue for bread rolls. There is no other possibility, however, as well as hopes for change.

This time, Ali Karimli failed

And on January 20, literally the next day, a new victorious image of Ali Karimli appeared in front of us in social networks. It seemed to him that the expected for the long decades was already very close - the protest electorate merged with the social base.

What is the main mistake of the Azerbaijani opposition? In the wrong analysis and assessment of the situation in the country. And as a result, in the erroneous conclusions. And this time the frontist leader misjudged the situation. On January 31, in the village of Novkhani, behind the fragile shoulders of the disgruntled politician, there was a miserable handful of unshaven marginals. These were familiar regular members of all Popular Front Party rallies. Ambition and inflexibility of Ali Karimli did not allow him to take a more rational decision - to join or merge with the rally of Musavat, whose supporters gathered in the same square a few hours earlier. Musavat too gathered only about 50-100 supporters. Thus, Karimli could create in the narrow streets of a small Baku village a 3D effect so liked by him, a beautiful picture of many opposition supporters. His characteristic ego-centrism and narcissism hindered this. What is the result? Complete failure.

Ilgar Mammadov turned out to be more prudent than Gambar and Karimli: he urged his group to refrain from rally tactics until the parliamentary elections in 2020.

Most interesting, but immediately after yesterday's small protest, the opposition's mouthpieces immediately abandoned their parallels with Venezuela, and the prospect of a successful revolutionary struggle seemed to them again shadowy and distant.

Thus, we have to state two main conclusions after the new surge of political activisation of protest forces. First, yesterday's action of the opposition confirmed the Azerbaijani axiom: the protest electorate did not join the social base of the opposition. Second, the vacillating part of the electorate once again supported the party of power. This part of the population does not want to change the usual and well-established way of life for elemental uncertainty. For them, stability is more important than democracy and revolution.

The opposition failed to loosen system stability this time too. And if a new misunderstanding like the 'case of Mehman Huseynov' does not happen in the country, the intensification of political life will occur only in the autumn of 2020. At best…

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