Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The election season has begun here - with posters similar to the one above plastered on walls around the city. The posters remind me of those that I saw in Russia before the election there, depicting "ordinary citizens" who are apparently going to exercise their civic duty and go vote.
The president also has some posters up, just a photo of himself and a short phrase that identifies himself as candidate. I haven't seen posters for any other candidates.
By chance, my path crossed that of the president earlier in the week. He was coming to Sheki as I was leaving. In preparation for his visit, the authorities had closed the only road to the city. Very inconvenient. My first taxi driver turned back - with a defeatist attitude. I'd just have to spend another day in Sheki, he said. I wasn't resigned to this - and was able to find a driver that had a pass through the police blockade.
While the president was in the northern part of the country, he supposedly visited a whole bunch of stuff that has been on hold for months, waiting for his visit. A new stadium, culture club, and hotel in Zaqatala, to name just a few projects. In Sheki, the scene was characterized by feverish activity, as people of all ages were painting, weeding, and cleaning along what I presume was the route of the presidential entourage.
The election, of course, isn't much of a contest, but that's not to say there's nothing to write about.
The last issue of Zerkalo carried on page two an article that depicts the contrasting situations for the the New Azerbaijan Party (the ruling party) and its opponents. YAP, as it is known from its Azerbaijani initials, held its meeting in a stadium. Attending the meeting thousands of government workers, who were essentially required to attend.
The opponents of the governments, however, were only able to get permission to meet at a remote location.