- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 October 17, 2003 

The Election in Azerbaijan: Karabakh reacts to Ilham Aliev's ascension to his father's throne

"In any case we must negotiate with Azerbaijan and solve with him our common problem," says Arkadi Ghukasyan, President of Karabakh.
Will the newly elected Azerbaijani president have enough power and support inside the country to respond to experienced president's call?

Ilham Aliev's election as President of Azerbaijan was received calmly in the unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR). Most here view his election (by a landside victory Wednesday) through speculation of how the outgoing president's son might approach the issue of settling the Karabakh conflict.

NKR President Arkady Ghukasyan says it is premature to draw conclusions concerning the new president of Azerbaijan and his political steps regarding the Karabakh issue.

"In point of fact Ilham Aliev hasn't proved himself up to now," Ghukasyan told representatives of Russian Mass Media in Stepanakert. Ghukasyan judges Ilham Aliev's recent harsh statements addressed to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, as pre-election populist rhetoric. In this connection he expressed apprehensions that in the future the newly elected president could become a hostage of those statements.

"In any case we must negotiate with Azerbaijan and solve with him our common problem," said Ghukasyan. The NKR president says resuming peace negotiations must take a "risk of peace", namely, take compromise steps by Ilham Aliev's administration, which are not popular among his citizenry.

NKR presidential political adviser Manvel Sargsyan expressed hope that the "experience of Aliev senior and his leaning towards resolution of the conflict would transmit to Aliev junior. Further development of the process on the settlement in many ways will depend on Ilham Aliev's ability of setting up stable and strong power in Azerbaijan."

"With Ilham Aliev's rise to power, no changes of Azerbaijan's position on the settlement of Karabakh conflict are expected," said the chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign Relations of NKR Vahram Atanesyan.

But Atanesyan also speculated that the junior Aliev may have a tenuous hold on his power, coming as it has "on the wave of his father's charisma and indisputable authority."

If the new president can't settle the Karabakh issue to Azeri liking, i.e., retaking Karabakh as a legal and constitutional region of Azerbaijan, certain radical factions could rise in revolt against him. Such a possibility "will increase after Heydar Aliev's death," Atanesyan said.

Independent political experts of Nagorno Karabakh expressed similar opinions.

Political analyst Alexander Grigoryan is sure that Ilham Aliev won't establish a de facto power base in the country. "People who have total control over power structures wield real power in such countries as Azerbaijan, where values of totalitarianism prevail over all other parameters of state structure," Grigoryan says. "That was indeed the case under the rule of Heydar Aliev, who had initially put his people at the head of power departments such as Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs as well as Ministry of National Security."

But the younger Aliev has come to power largely as a result of that already-existing base, Grigoryan says. And "thus, it will not be the president who will be controlling activities of his power ministries but these ministries will be keeping the president's behavior under their observation."

Concerning a potential peace settlement, Grigoryan says any proposal by the OSCE Minsk Group will be rejected by Azerbaijan if it requires "real compromise".

Georgy Ghazaryan, head of the non-governmental socio-political organization Democratic Reforms and Human Rights takes a slightly different view. He believes that Ilham Aliev might be obliged to his allies in the United States, Russia, Turkey, France and other countries where his succession to his father was endorsed.

"Ilham realizes that these countries rendered their assistance to him so that he could preserve stability in the region and settle on a compromise concerning resolution of the Karabakh problem," said Ghazaryan.

In whole, politicians and political analysts as well as a number of other influential representatives of Karabakh society have one common opinion that Ilham Aliev is more predictable and more responsible for whatever he does than his campaign opponents who were perceived as radical nationalists.

That perception leads many in Karabakh to believe that the eight-year cease fire will hold under Ilham Aliev's administration.

According to Agnes
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