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Monday, December 05, 2005

Azeri Elections

And now for a special treat... A dispatch from our friend, former New Jersey pol, Mr. Democracy who is currently on assignment bringing the gift of liberty to the people of the Republic of Latveria:

Many of you may not have noticed, but there were parliamentary elections in the caucasian Republic of Azerbaijan last month (Nov. 6) I happened to spend a year in Azerbaijan working for a democracy promotion group assisting in the development of political parties, both the ruling party Yenni Azerbaijan (YAP) and the main opposition parties (ADP, Musavat, ANIP, AXCP)

YAP got 62 out of 125 seats, which sounds reasonable until you realise that the main opposition parties got just 5 seats (the rest of the winners are "independents" or minor parties completely under the control of the YAP.)

Although things may be somewhat different from when I was there, my suspicion is that the opposition parties still don’t “get” it. They have a very shallow base of support within the electorate. What’s worse is, they refuse to believe that the have a very shallow base of support. We conducted a nationwide poll several months before the last presidential election in 2003 which showed that none of the opposition parties got out of the single digits in terms of popularity. In short, they have utterly failed over the years to articulate any sort of reason why they would be a better choice than the Government. Regular people see no reason to put anything on the line for the opposition because they don’t care about them.

Which is not to say that the Government doesn’t cheat. They do…massively. The irony being that they don’t have to cheat because they would win in what most of us in America would consider a landslide.

Unlike their neighbors, the Georgians (with whom I also worked with for a year) the Azeri opposition was never able to understand the basics of political message development and communication – namely, that you have to research the electorate and identify and communicate a message that will resonate with a specific portion of that electorate. You can’t talk to everyone, and not everyone is going to buy what you have to say. But you don’t have to get everyone on your side to become politically relevant. You only have to put down roots with a portion of the electorate to get you to where you need to be (7% plus one to get into parliament, approximately 40% to get into the presidential run-off, etc.)

The Azeri opposition keeps hitting a generic “democracy” message which simply does not resonate amongst Azeri electorate. My theory on this is because the current generation of opposition leaders; Isa Gambar, Ali Kremli, Etibar Mamedov – came of age as dissidents in the late Soviet era. Their formative political experiences were the massive democracy protests that rocked Azerbaijan in 1989-90. Azerbaijan was in the forefront of the independence movement in the late Soviet era and “democracy” was the message that the opposition leaders stumbled into back then and have been holding on to ever since. Interestingly, this proves that the Azeri public can be motivated to political action. However, the democracy message in the intervening 15 years has been played out. Yet the current opposition leaders think that by trying to replicate the past, they can come to power.

Which shows just how much they do not understand basics of message, or the forces which drove the neighboring Georgian “Rose Revolution” and Ukrainian "Orange Revolution,” which completely confound them. The mere fact that they have been decking their supporters out in orange shirts and scarves shows just how little they understand these concepts. They think that by aping the surface features of the Orange Revolution they can garner political strength. But they will never be able to achieve their objectives until they put down real roots in the electorate and give a segment of the Azeri public a reason to risk their lives and livelihood.

If there is hope for the Azeri people to live in a decent society, it will come from an evolutionary progression of one of the smaller independent parties. This story in the WaPo gives me some hope that some individuals not linked to a main opposition party actually “get it.” I have actually trained some of them. It would be gratifying to see if it might be possible, over progressive election cycles, for some of them to gather a substantial following in the Azeri electorate and possibly be the impetus for some change in Azerbaijan’s corrupt autocracy.

Good luck Mr. Democracy! We await your next dispatch. Watch out for Doombots!

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! For those of you who haven't visited The Idiom before, we specialize in two different types of posts.

#1 - Thoughtful pieces about The War.

#2 - Humourous pieces on animal sex.

Please look around.


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