A ‘Letter to the Editor’ Battle in the Washington Post
About two weeks ago, Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post mentioned Azerbaijan briefly in a larger discussion of political freedom:
In Azerbaijan, another secular Muslim dictator, Ilham Aliyev, plays on U.S. fears of Islamic radicalism and the U.S. need for oil to win indulgence when he rigs elections and locks up journalists.
That’s not going to win you any friends in the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, Fred. His words probably simplify the situation a bit too much. And it also provoked this response from the Azerbaijani Ambassador to the US:
The implication of Fred Hiatt’s Feb. 7 op-ed column [“A tougher line on dictators?”] that President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan falls short of being deemed a democratically elected leader faithfully accountable to the electorate was false.
According to international observers, the last 2008 presidential elections “marked considerable progress toward OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and Council of Europe commitments,” during which President Aliyev received a sufficient majority of the vote, a reflection by the public that he was the most-qualified leader to continue economic development and democratic reforms.
Maybe Yaşar is required to make this defense. I think most Azeri citizens here would probably argue him down about whether they live in a democracy or not. And, apparently a man named Mitchell Polman also wants to clarify a few things:
The ambassador said that the report stated that the elections marked progress toward Azerbaijan meeting its international commitments with respect to elections. However, the report was speaking only of technical issues when it said Azerbaijan had made progress. The report, which is available on the OSCE Web site, goes on to state that the election, “was characterized by a lack of robust competition, a lack of vibrant political discourse, and a restrictive media environment, and thus did not reflect some of the principles necessary for a meaningful and pluralistic democratic election.” In addition, an OSCE report on the 2010 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan stated, “the conduct of these elections overall was not sufficient to constitute meaningful progress in the democratic development of the country.”
Yaşar got pwned right there.
This topic is probably too political for my blogging activities. I’m just interested here in sharing the viewpoints we’re dealing with when it comes to elections in Azerbaijan. In terms of publicity, Azerbaijan did a great job of putting together a fancy election website, and I was even able to find my host brother on the voter rolls. Those are certainly good steps. In a few years, we’ll see how Azerbaijan reacts to the other criticisms coming its way.