Rhetoric and reality

AZERBAIJAN went to poll this Sunday. And the governing New Azerbaijan Party has ‘won’ the poll. With 90 per cent of the votes counted, the ruling party is seen as largely retaining its power in the former Soviet republic.

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Published: Tue 8 Nov 2005, 9:25 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:48 PM

Not surprisingly, the opposition Azadlyq bloc has challenged the results accusing the regime of President Ilham Aliyev of rigging the poll. Western observers too say the poll did not meet international standards. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which sent 660 observers, has condemned irregularities in voting and vote counting.

Azerbaijan has emerged as yet another test of the US commitment to democracy and freedom. The oil-rich Muslim country is one of the many close allies of the United States in the region. This is why the Azerbaijan vote has been closely watched and monitored by the Western media and observers. The Sunday vote is indeed a test of US President George W Bush himself and his lofty claims to champion democracy, freedom and human rights in the Muslim world. The self-styled champion of freedom and democracy, who never tires of arguing that God has made Man free, has been put on trial in this election.

The Azerbaijan vote tests whether Bush really means what he says when he holds forth on the perils of tyranny and dictatorship and how he wants the seeds of freedom and democracy sown across the globe, especially in Muslim world. Azerbaijan, like other authoritarian regimes in the region and elsewhere in the Muslim world, tests the US leader’s seriousness and sincerity in pursuing political reforms even when they don’t seemingly favour American interests or the interests of friendly regimes.

As is typical of other US allies in Central Asia, eastern Europe and Middle East, there have been serious charges of authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuse against the current regime in Azerbaijan. However, Washington has steadily ignored these accusations just as it has elsewhere —in all those ex Soviet republics, which conveniently shifted their loyalties from Moscow to Washington after the disintegration of Soviet Union. This is precisely why few in the international community now take him seriously when the leader of the free world pontificates on his vision of democracy, human freedom and liberty. The Bush vision is now in tatters. The world knows from its experience in the past few years that they are nothing but mere words in George W Bush’s dictionary. They have lost their meaning.

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