Our Analytics 21 november — 18:41

What is allowed to Nino, is not allowed to Ali (Leading article)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV

Georgia is still not able to escape from the viscous quagmire of the deepest political crisis. Before the country recovered from the severe June upheavals, Tbilisi was again plunged into hopeless political anarchy. The main conclusion from the bitter experience of the countries of the CIS space, which chose a polyarchy, or, more simply, a parliamentary form of government as a possible panacea for the concentration of all branches of power in one political centre, is disappointing: in the face of unrelenting geopolitical collisions and unresolved ethno-political conflicts, a shaky system of permanent inter-party competition leads to a systemic political crisis.

Dispersal of a rally in Tbilisi, November 2019

The transition to a governmental system of parliamentarism with an incompletely established political system, which is excluded under the conditions of constant foreign policy challenges and threats in a bubbling and boiling region, is fraught with the onset of destabilisation. Eloquent examples of torn Ukraine, unstable Moldova, exhausted Armenia, stray Kyrgyzstan, and finally suffering from the turmoil Georgia, that is, those countries where the presidential vertical was deliberately weakened by the elite, should warn against an unpredictable scenario. World history is the best witness to this: only a strong hand and the iron will of leaders promise the success of reforms. Even the forerunner of the geopolitical revolution in the CIS, Mikheil Saakashvili, when he was president of Georgia, resorted to the most extreme measures to protect systemic stability: sometimes with rubber bullets, often with iron batons, tear gas mercilessly dispersed externally-inspired protests on Rustaveli Avenue.

Dispersal of a rally in Tbilisi in June 2019

The parliamentary form of government with elements of the polyarchy was inherited by the current Georgian government from Saakashvili. This was the last, final political reform of the leader of the revolutionary government, who had lost public confidence. The new ruling Georgian political elite managed to build a completely different mechanism of power, based again on personal trust and adapted to a permanent crisis situation. Parliamentarism as a guarantor of strong and effective governance has not worked. The new bipolar system of power, albeit informally shadow, is still based on the indisputable authority of the leader of the ruling party and the ruling elite, Bidzina Ivanishvili. A mixed electoral system with a majority form guarantees at least some predictability of the political process. So, on the path of forces that are trying at all costs to rock the situation, the stumbling block is the majority system. It is under the slogans of the abolition of this system that protests have been held in Georgia since June this year.

However, the Georgian elite, flaunting the experience of European countries with an established political system, does not accept compromises and refuses to cancel the mixed system until 2024. The opposition is well aware that there is only one way out for changing the status quo: with the help of a mobilised and well-organised street force, achieve the overthrow of the current elite under the guise of a colour revolution. However, the elite by all means, sometimes quite tough, but justifiably tenaciously defends the foundations of power. Police officers open fire with rubber bullets, use water cannons, iron batons, in a word, turn all the preventive might and power of the law against participants of the illegal actions.

It is very strange that the absolutely legitimate, but from a Western point of view, to put it mildly, illiberal, almost 'repressive' methods of the Georgian authorities do not raise complaints at the US Embassy or the EU mission. Silent are the international democratic institutions. The censure of the disproportion of the force used against the demonstrators is not heard. There are no reproaches for the rigidity of the measures applied.

Another matter is the country neighbouring Georgia: our Azerbaijan. At one time, Ilham Aliyev had enough political insight and the ability to correctly analyse the international balance of power and the changed balance of forces in the regional security system, so as not to give way to the most powerful international pressure for some time. The West demanded absolute and unlimited political liberalisation in Azerbaijan. What the persistent attempts of Western institutes of applied political science simulating revolutionary situations, which wanted to turn overnight Iraq into a second Sweden, Egypt into a new Austria, and Syria into a new Israel of the Middle Eastlead, can lead to the world bitterly realised, observing the unprecedented in the history of the East bloody meat grinder of the war of all against all. Many years later, in the light of the unprecedented popularisation of pro-Iranian Islamic forces in traditionally secular Azerbaijan (the West never learns from its own mistakes, for example, a half-century blazing secular Lebanon, which fell under the control of an insidious theocratic force controlled from another country), manipulated by the 'Shiite Vatican,' and attempts of the revival of political extremism of 1992, the pressure of the West on the Azerbaijani elite began to weaken.

The first large rallies in Baku began to be gathered by the Shiite party

Although subjective factors also played an important role in curbing the so-called liberal expansion: the collapse of the Arab spring and the reincarnation of the Russian one, the neo-isolationism of the Trump administration... The first understanding of the Azerbaijani incident came with the Nardaran riot, senseless and merciless, when for the first time in the entire political history of Azerbaijan there was a cooption of the rising religious extremists with the national democrats, who embarked on the path of political extremism. And the national democrats, who once stood in the guise of a liberal and Eurocentric force, traditionally enjoyed the support of Western political circles. And, finally, the realisation of the new Azerbaijani dilemma occurred after the Ganja rebellion: Islamists in the spirit of the Lebanese Hezbollah embarked on the path of political terror, and extremist nationalists openly proclaimed a retaliation strategy in their media and social networks.

It would seem that after this rethinking, the West, split into two poles by Trump's isolationism and Macron's insight into the revival of the 'Russian world,' should have abandoned the rhetoric of ephemeral 'human rights in Azerbaijan.' Indeed, unlike Georgia, where the parliament was stormed by the national democrats and Saakashvili supporters, the central streets of Baku were tried to be blocked by extremists. Ali (Karimli) is not an eccentric Nino in aristocratic gloves, or even an imposing Grigol. Karimli is a typical archaic zviadist from the forgotten 1990s. This is the same type as Jaba Ioseliani or Tengiz Kitovani. And in this parallel lies another important feature that distinguishes Georgian reality from Azerbaijan. After Ioseliani and Gamsakhurdia, at least three generations changed in Georgian politics. In Azerbaijan, Zviadists are still gathering for imaginary barricades. If Ioseliani was reincarnated, the Georgian authorities would have had to meet the coups with tanks.

National democrats' leader Karimli, along with a handful of supporters, tried to block the main street of Baku

Notice that in Tbilisi they shoot rubber bullets at the demonstrators. Washington and Brussels are silent. Opposition activists arrested back in June, that is, from the point of view of the Council of Europe, political prisoners, are still in custody. Washington and Brussels are silent. The Georgian opposition brings tens of thousands of activists and supporters with political demands to the streets, but the government reacts harshly and proactively. The two-headed West is silent again.

Although just a few weeks ago, the right-wing extremist force in Baku, contrary to the authorities' proposal to hold an authorised action, brings only dozens of activists to the streets, tries to cause unrest and paralyses the centre of the capital, and the Azerbaijani police only detains the troublemakers without firing shots, water cannons and special effects, limiting themselves to administrative punishment. But critical voices are heard from Washington and Brussels. If the Georgian opposition enjoys widespread public support and competes fiercely with the government, then the Azerbaijani is not even able to nominate candidates for deputies in all electoral districts of the country! That is, the opposition nomenclature does not have the potential for political struggle and the nomination of 125 candidates! What comparison can there be with the Georgian opposition, represented in the parliament with the largest faction!

Georgian opposition is being driven into a corner. The West is silent. But if a miserable and cowardly handful of the Azerbaijani opposition tries to raise a bolt in the centre of Baku and meets with the resistance of law enforcement officers, the West considers the actions of the authorities unlawful and disproportionate to the 'spontaneous action' caused by the anarchists. Tbilisi argues its actions by the fact that crowds of people did not comply with the requirements of law enforcement agencies, and qualifies these actions as hooliganism. The West is sympathetic to the legal measures of the Georgian authorities. But in Azerbaijan, no more than 20-30 activists block the central street and run into police intervention, but the West perceives the actions of the Azerbaijani police as aggressive and tough.

One of the opposition supporters in Tbilisi

Is it again about discriminatory-stereotyped theory of double standard? Official Baku, which has strictly chosen the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other states, is sympathetic to the actions of the Georgian, French, and German police, sometimes rightly restricting the right to freedom of assembly in the centre of the capitals. But why is the Azerbaijani government confronted with a biased and immoral attitude, feeling constant attempts to interfere in its internal affairs? Some Western institutions cynically argue that illegal actions in Baku are peaceful. Let's say! But didn't the actions in Tbilisi carry a peaceful and political orientation? On the other hand, how did the actions in Baku have been peaceful if troublemakers broke into the centre of the capital and tried to arrange an unauthorised march on roads reserved for automobiles? Why what the West allows to Georgia, it does not allow to Azerbaijan? Where is the difference? And where is the logic of intricate actions, evaluations and statements?

The future of Georgia is dear to Azerbaijan: the destinies of our peoples and countries are intertwined, like the self-sacrificed love of Azerbaijani man Ali for the Georgian girl Nino, sung in the same fabulous novel of the beginning of the last century. But sometimes I even want to ask the powers that be: why is it that what is allowed to Nino, is not allowed to Ali?

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