Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

From Holden:

The Bush Assministration’s embrace of the status quo in Azerbaijan draws a sharp rebuke from the Council of Europe and Azerbaijani opposision leaders.

The Council of Europe (CoE) has rebuked Washington for its support of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s regime despite serious allegations of fraud in recent parliamentary elections.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday night, a high-level delegation from the CoE rebuked not only President Aliev and other government authorities, but had harsh words for US President George Bush.

Their criticism of Bush was in response to the US embassy in Baku issuing a press release on Friday, saying it “welcomes the decision of the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan to annul the results of additional constituencies that had been affected by electoral fraud in the November 6 parliamentary elections”.

This announcement has elicited widespread astonishment among Azeri liberals, since a recent high court decision called for new elections in only ten of Azerbaijan’s 125 parliamentary districts – despite findings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the CoE that the election was seriously compromised.

The US statement also came as a surprise in the wake of a violent police response to opposition rallies last week.

Furthermore, in several of the ten districts, opposition candidates had been declared the ultimate winners.

A re-run of elections in those districts is now seen by many as a cynical move by the Central Election Commission (CEC), appearing to respond to allegations of fraud while ensuring eventual victories for pro-government candidates.


Leo Platvoet of the CoE echoed [opposition leader Ali] Keremli’s sentiments, saying that the CoE’s impression was that election returns were declared invalid in a number of constituencies “not because there was a lot of fraud, but because the candidate of the opposition won”.

The CoE delegation also expressed dismay with the US State Department’s conciliatory position so soon after the 26 November police crackdown on demonstrators in Baku’s Galaba Square.


President Bush’s inaugural address last January is used frequently by Azerbaijan’s pro-democracy activists as a clarion call. In that speech, Bush laid out a radical departure for US foreign policy, stressing American solidarity with oppressed peoples everywhere.

“There is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty,” Bush said.

But Gross compared these words with the US statement supporting the Constitutional Court’s decision: “In this [embassy] statement, the dedication of Mr. Bush in his inaugural statement last January, you can’t feel anymore.”

As the post-election reality sets in, many Azeris say they feel abandoned, and question the tradeoffs between geopolitical necessity and what they hoped would be an embryonic democracy.