Why the Azerbaijan elections are important

Election 2015 Materials 31 October 2015 13:27 (UTC +04:00)
There is a debate currently going on in the Western countries if the parliamentary elections taking place in Azerbaijan this Sunday are truly democratic or not.
Why the Azerbaijan elections are important

By Claude Salhani - Trend:

There is a debate currently going on in the Western countries if the parliamentary elections taking place in Azerbaijan this Sunday are truly democratic or not. Yes, of course says the leadership in Baku, as do the vast majority of people one meets everyday. Not so says the country's detractors and human rights groups.

So where is the truth in this debate? To start of, one needs to underline the fact that what exactly is defined by ``'democracy"? Democracy, as we know is something that needs to be adapted to the needs and requirements of the country that adopts it as its "operating system." There is no one-size-fits-all democracy. Democracy does not come pre-packages off the shelf, ready to deploy. It is a long and slow process that takes years -- sometimes decades - to shape, mold, perfect and become "standard" and on a par with those long established democratic countries such as those of Western Europe, North America and some parts of Asia.

In adopting democracy for its system of governance, as it did at the break-up of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan made a choice and a commitment. However in adopting democracy one should be well aware that Azerbaijan's democracy is never going to be uniform with that of the United States of the European countries. Why? Three reasons.

One: Because of its geographic location Azerbaijan must take certain factors into consideration. Having for neighbors Iran, Russia and Armenia (with whom Azerbaijan is technically in a state of war) is very different that having Canada and Mexico for neighbors or having Belgium, Germany and Spain as neighbors. That affects the very dynamics of the country.

Two: The level of political maturity in the country plays a big role. It is important to note that Azerbaijan, much like the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia do not have a long history or experience of self rule and or democratic tendencies. Governing such fragile societies needs to be done with great care given the potential influence of regional politics and the possible interference that may occur from certain neighbors in internal Azerbaijani affairs.

And three: the country's cultural, religious and/or historic ties to other similar cultures in the region may play a role in pulling the country in a certain direction which may not be in the national interest of the country.

Opening up to general liberalization identical to that practiced in Western European countries may yield more negative than positive result and may prove to be counter productive in the long run.

Azerbaijan needs to practice a model of democracy that is designed for Azerbaijan and that evolves with time and the political education and maturity of its people. And that does not mean the maturity and education of just the country's elite, but of the majority of the people, including those who are in outlying areas far from the capital . And the best judges of what is needed are the people of Azerbaijan, not EU bureaucrats sitting in a glass-enclosed cage in Brussels.

One should look around the region and compare, and realize that Azerbaijan has made great strides in the right direction, even if there may be a pot hole or two on that difficult road to democracy.

Claude Salhani is senior editor at Trend Agency and a political analyst.

You can follow Claude on Twitter @ClaudeSalhani.