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Sunday, 27 May 2012

My ears, my poor ears!! No euphoria for Azerbaijan and the Eurovision Song Contest

As some of you already know, I did not bother to care about this year’s Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Baku. Partly because of the horrid music and embarrassing performances, but mostly because of the show facade created. One huge evening with lots of glamour in an authoritarian regime that struggled to present itself in a European and modern shine.

A question remains after the whole ESC mumbo-jumbo has finally come to an end: will this glamour be sustainable for Azerbaijan or even for the opposition? Western show business tends to forget about past ESC hosts very quickly, so it is possible for Azerbaijan and its regime under President Aliyev to go back to daily life. It is up to the opposition to maintain its newly established overall support from the west to enforce its struggle for westernization in terms of democratization and rule of law principles.

Certainly, for Aliyev it will become significantly more difficult to maintain his power with the opposition strengthened and brought into mass media as it happened over the past few weeks. If the opposition succeeds in keeping its momentum for the next weeks and months to come, it is possible to initiate a slow political change in Azerbaijan. However, Aliyev is aware of this risk and he is facing two alternatives:
First, he allows a slow and steady political reform process by granting public assemblies of opposition groups and parties, maybe even free elections and a reform of the existing political system.
The second one, however, is maintaining the current system and keeping on with crushing opposition and human rights movements with all possible force at his disposal, which will weaken his position and might lead to a general destabilization of the country and even maybe of the Caucasian region, spilling over to other authoritarian systems in the immediate neighbourhood.

Unfortunately, despite the public support from the west, it is unlikely that any kind of peaceful reform will be successful with the existing regime in charge. And although there was a tremendous coverage on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, the main western interest in Azerbaijan itself is not human rights or rule of law, but oil and gas.

Azerbaijan is a main oil and gas exporter and it is the west’s genuine interest to keep a trade partner in the Caucasian region. Western policy makers are very well aware of this fact and even during the ESC there was hardly any official statement on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Only a German TV presenter stated during the voting procedure that Azerbaijan should have the right to vote its own future.

In short: the ESC brought the whole matter to public, but that’s it for now. With Sweden as the winner of this year’s ESC, the western world will have a relief, since Sweden is no political issue at all and there won’t be any human rights discussion, compared to Azerbaijan.
In this way, back to normality for the ESC organizers, but still no euphoria.

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