face on the carpet has walked for 34 years
as Azerbaijan's leader.
Ilham, son of President Heydar Aliev, is once
and for all ready to take over the reigns of government
in Azerbaijan. It will happen Wednesday (October
15). Judging from the situation in Armenia's neighbor
to the east elections will be held the way Heydar
Baba, himself, has willed. (The elder Aliev, 80,
dropped out of the presidential race last week,
yielding the candidacy to his son. Heydar is currently
in the United States being treated for life-threatening
The Aliev dynasty drive is being quietly tolerated
by most of the international community. Almost
all sides interested in the Caucasus region have
already directly or indirectly thrown their support
The West, first of all the USA, is ready to accept
an Aliev dynasty, equating democracy with consistency
in maintaining good relations in Oil Country.
Ilham, 42, received warm welcomes on two recent
visits to the States.
Russia is likewise on the Aliev bandwagon. Ilham
met with Putin tete-a-tete during the recent CIS
Summit in Yalta, meanwhile, Russian delegations
make frequent official visits to Baku. First wife
Liudmilla Putina and Secretary of the Security
Council of Russia Vladimir Rushailo were recent
Undoubtedly Russia is concerned about Azerbaijan's
post-election priorities as evidenced by Rushailo's
comment: "Russia is interested in continuity
of policy in Azerbaijan and in continuation of
the constructive dialogue between heads of both
Ilham unceasingly assures both the West and Russia
of his devotion to his father's cause. In fact
he promises what they expect him to promise -
guarantees. And texts of his assurances are the
same both for the West and Russia:
"Foreign policy of Azerbaijan remains invariable.
Relations with Russia are relations of strategic
partnership, which are of primary importance for
Baku," said Ilham during the meeting with
Rushailo. He repeated the phrase in the US, changing
only for appropriate geographic location.
Ilham's promises are sincere, as they are his
only commodity. Baku has many priorities. And
it has its closest priority, Turkey, enjoying
warm relations with its Muslim brothers. The presumed
future president, in fact, maintains Turkish citizenship.
Even across closed borders, Ilham's candidacy
is supported. Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Vardan Oskanyan said this week: "Ilham Aliev
is the most preferred candidate for Armenia as
he is well informed about his father's activities
and knows about the latest proposals of the OSCE
Minsk Group on the settlement of the Karabakh
In the shrinking world of geo-politics, the international
community appears ready to accept a dynasty of
(to paraphrase Lenin) "one, separate"
Caucasian country. Voters, meanwhile appear ready
to follow the "spirit" and the "letter"
of Father Aleiev's Cleveland epistle - a will,
of sorts, bequeathing power to Ilham.
What does Baba (grandfather) will to his people?
Firstly, of course, he wills a memory of himself.
"These days", his bedside message said,
"is the 34th anniversary of my governing
of Azerbaijan as a whole and 10 years as a president
of the independent Azerbaijan republic. As an
Azerbaijani, citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan,
its leader and the president the idea of my entire
life was only to serve you, people of Azerbaijan,
whom I love more than my life."
The ability for such soulful persuasion and his
imperturbable paternalistic image affords the
senior Aliev indulgences. His is a leadership
marked by corruption and repression and, of course,
the unresolved Karabakh conflict. But if his subjects
don't necessarily forget, they are compelled to
forgive by his impassioned confession.
"I love you more than my life
The image and inflection snapped into action without
In the second paragraph of his message Aliev
wills the country to his citizens, a country,
he says "using the most progressive experience
and world values, guided by the principles of
a democratic republic, domination of human rights
and rights of citizens and political pluralism,
realizes activities side by side with the most
progressive and powerful countries of Europe and
That part of the message with democratic embellishment
is, of course, meant for foreign ears. The message
for natives raised the country's profile through
other self-serving rhetoric.
"Our country took a deserved position in
the international community. Today, the main strategic
and global issues of the world and regions are
not solved without taking our opinion and our
interests into account. They know us, they accept
us and reckon with us
The weakest part in Aliev's will is Karabakh.
But even there Baba (as he is widely known) managed
to marvelously portray himself as a stabilizer.
Taking advantage of the political
crisis that burst out in our republic in 1990-1993,
crisis of power, uncontrollability and chaos,
the Armenian army occupied Azerbaijan lands and
turned more than a million of our compatriots
into refugees and re-settlers
all of that."
The moral of that message on the dawn of an election
is this: If there were no chaos and crisis we
would preserve "our" territories. Remember
that and don't stand in the way of Ilham
In the end, the president again reminds that
he "devoted all my life to the people of
Azerbaijan, to their present and future. . . .
a few problems with my recent state of health
don't allow me to finish all this work
The obvious segue is an unveiled nomination speech
for the son.
"Ilham is a highly intellectual, energetic,
stirring individual with a pragmatic way of thinking,
who perfectly comes to know the particulars of
the policy and economics". And finally, "I
believe him like I believe myself."
Ilham is probably the biggest of Heydar Aliev's
weakness. Analysts for years have said the elder
statesman would have abdicated power long ago,
if not for the desire to provide a succession
for the son. Succession of power guarantees prosperity
and the safety that comes with status. Common
opinion is that the son has done little to earn
such status on his own. But it is the will of
the father that he profit from it.
Is it possible that people would disobey their
leader? Probably not. Not even during growing
rumors that their Baba is in fact already dead.
There is no precedent for disloyalty to the man
who has been in charge for 34 years.
But neither has there been a precedent for a
"democratic dynasty". Still, one appears
on the horizon east of Armenia.