President election in Azerbaijan will be carried out only in next year, though the opposition is preparing itself for it. All the more that it cannot be excluded that the election will be premature, because the worsening health of the President does not inspire with optimism the ruling party. On Saturday, mass conflicts between supporters of the opposition and the police took place. The opposition’s supporters demanded President Heidar Aliev’s resignation, while the police used bludgeons. As a result, ten people were injured. In Baku, discrepant rumours are being spread about the President’s health. Pro-presidential sources report that on February 14, Heidar Aliev had an operation on prostate gland. He has been staying in Cliveland hospital since February 4. According to the President’s press-service, 78-year-old Aliev feels well and will return home after a short rehabilitation period. Though the opposition cannot believe it and supposes the people will be swindled one more time. According to some observers, with the Saturday meeting a new phase of opposition protests starts in Azerbaijan. The day before, leaders of four biggest opposition parties of Azerbaijan – Musavat, Party of Civil Unity, Democratic and Liberal Parties – agreed about joint fight against “Aliev’s regime.” The opposition made a joint statement, where they say that in March, mass protest action will be launched demanding Heidar Aliev’s resignation. Masavat party’s leader, the head of opposition block Democratic Congress, Isa Gambar, while speaking to Kommersant correspondent, called the recent events in Azerbaijan “agony of the ruling regime” and said that “the fight for removal Aliev’s family from power will be continued up to the logical end – to democratic election in Azderbaijan and coming to power of democratic forces.” Unconvincing and sometimes naiv statements of the Azerbaijanian President’s press-service are profitable for the opposition. Baku mass media spread information that the whole family of Aliev flew to the US. Did they fly to say last goodbye to Aliev? Not long ago, the question about who will lead Azerbaijan into 21st century would sound strangely, while now it becomes more and more actual. Succession of power is very important for Aliev’s clan that has been leading Azerbaijan (with short pauses) since 1960s. This clan’s members understand very well that they could lose everything with the replacement of the leader, and they offer now different ways of the issue’s solution. It Heidar Aliev dies, his son, Ilkham Aliev is the main candidate for the President’s chair, who is now the leader of State Oil Company of Azerbaijanian Republic. If this variant does not work well, there is one more variant with ex-Azerbaijanian President Abulfaz Elchibei, which is not perfect, though not the worst one. Karabakh crisis ruined Elchibei’s carrier, though now he has a chance to win back. If Elchibei returns to the presidential chair, he promises to save security of Aliev’s clan, and first of all of Aliev’s closest relatives. Today, many opposition leaders consider Elchibei and his supporters to be Aliev’s proteges, what aggravates the opposition’s split. Therefore, Aliev could further carry out his foreign and internal policy, however this has not brought any profits to Azerbaijan. Aliev’s foreign policy aimed at maximal approach with the West was not successful. Now, ex-speaker of Azerbaijanian parliament Rasul Guliev is a real candidate for the President’s chair. He is the leader of the Democratic Party, which is rather popular in the country. Many circles, both in the country and in the West stake on him. Among possible candidates from opposition, Ayaz Mutalibov is mentioned. He is said to be supported by the Kremlin. Whether it is really so, or not – time will show, any case, it does not work for Aliev, but for his political opponents. Hot spring is being expected in Azerbaijan. Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/18/37239.html
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