Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I hear a small cavalcade of cars honking their horns. I imagine that they are supporters of the president, who has surely won re-election. Perhaps the results have been officially called. The results, in any case, were known for months. Today I spoke with a taxi driver about the situation. He said that Russia is much more democratic compared to Azerbaijan. Certainly, these election provide lots of food for cynicism.
Nonetheless, people did come out to vote. I visited a polling place this afternoon with some friends, and it was crowded. I met a 90-year-old man who was voting. I also saw a man reeking of alcohol who attempted to vote, but he was hustled away. The people running the balloting took their jobs quite seriously, as did the people casting their ballots. One of my friends, an Azerbaijani man, asked how the scene was different from the polling in the USA. Where I have voted in recent years - New York State - the voters use automated voting machines. But other than this, the scene was fairly similar. Unlike the United States, the limit on campaigning near the polling booth was quite stringent. There were no people holding signs on the street corner. But - then again - I've never seen anyone holding a sign during this whole campaign. That's not what they do here.
So, the president will win another term. And then? People are already joking about his wife succeeding him. And he has a young son too.