Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stepping back from democracy

Today citizens of Azerbaijan can vote on the proposal to amend the nation's constitution. This change is being done to give the citizens more freedom - the freedom to provide their unlimited support for the current president - Ilham Aliyev. (This is how the president himself has characterized the initiative!)

As I write this in Eastern Massachusetts, the polls should be closed in Azerbaijan. But - knowing the results of the vote does not require detailed analysis. A boycott of the referendum by opposition parties was announced on March 10. (The opposition also boycotted last year's presidential elections.)

My colleagues in Azerbaijan held a series of forums on the referendum in three regions and in the capital. My colleagues said that the local authorities interfered with them in some locations - but in general the forums went well. But - how could a few forums address the fundamental problems posed by this change. As in the presidential election, everyone knew the vote that was desired by the president and his ruling party - and it would be really amazing if the electorate did not provide this vote.

One way or another.