The situation in Azerbaijan tends to be forgotten due to the West’s obsession with Putin’s Russia, but its regime is one of the most corrupt and authoritarian in the region, says an article on Foreign Policy which is co-authored by former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Richard Kauzlarich and US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, David J. Kramer.
According to them, the Azerbaijani 2018 election ctions in Azerbaijan can not be called real election in any sense of the word. Unlike Putin’s Russia and Aleksandr Lukashenko’s Belarus, against which sanctions have been imposed for human rights abuses, Azerbaijan has escaped similar scrutiny from the United States and Europe. Azerbaijan has avoided sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, too, which the Trump administration implemented for the first time last December. That’s because Baku benefits from being a significant oil producer and part of the northern supply route for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
"But the policy of quiet diplomacy has failed. By giving Aliyev a pass for so many years, the U.S. government has done no favors to the people of Azerbaijan or to U.S. interests in the region. The United States and other Western countries have become enablers of Aliyev’s domestic policies, destroying any hope of democratic evolutionThe United States and other Western countries have become enablers of Aliyev’s domestic policies, destroying any hope of democratic evolution, the advancement of human rights and religious freedom, the elimination of corruption, and the creation of a true strategic partnership with the United States," authors noted.
The calling of snap elections for president on April 11 and the suppression of serious opposition to his regime should be the final straw.
"These moves have revealed the charade practiced for over two decades in Azerbaijan to the detriment of the Azerbaijani people and the country’s image in the world. President Aliyev advanced the date of the presidential elections at a moment when more than 100 political prisoners remained under illegal arrest and detention," the article reads.
For all the rhetoric about economic reform and diversification, Azerbaijan remains a Soviet-style economyFor all the rhetoric about economic reform and diversification, Azerbaijan remains a Soviet-style economy dominated by state- or oligarch-owned enterprises responding to presidential orders rather than market forces.
"The Aliyev government has yet to account for over $120 billion in earnings from offshore energy development. Prestige construction projects line the pockets of elites and their families, giving them villas on the Caspian seashore or high-end apartments in London while average Azerbaijanis live in substandard housing with inadequate medical care and poor education for their children. Azerbaijan’s leaders are looking out for themselves, not the country as a whole.
In the run-up to the elections, Aliyev’s government has also been beating the drums of war with Armenia. Large-scale, live-fire maneuvers continue, and the government has even labeled Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, part of Azerbaijan in an effort to rally citizens around the flag, just as Putin did with interventions in Ukraine and Syria," the authors of the article summed up.