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Failed rallies that proved unworthy of being called ‘mass’ - ANALYSIS

Growing access to information and limited opportunities of manipulation have not turned rallies into a mass, but a means of serving a limited political base

Opposition’s rally tactics failed years ago. The failure of the latest rally proved it once again. The reasons are many and varying, from global and regional changes that have taken place over the last few decades to defending personal egos. We would like to touch upon some of these factors.  

 

Popular movement began as rallies became prevalent throughout Azerbaijan. The rallies held in the Azadliq square in 1988 set the record of the time in terms of number of participants. This record was not broken since. The reasons are many, one of which was that the rallies were chiefly aimed at gaining access to information. People had limited access to alternative information. So they would attend rallies for the purpose of hearing new ideas.

 

This tendency changed radically in the 21st century; modern technology, the Internet and social media expanded people’s access to information tremendously compared to 30 years ago. In this sense, people’s interest in rallies has dropped to zero. Today everyone has free access to any information, so there is no need to join opposition rallies for this purpose.

 

The second reason has to do with the concept of information. As rallies were commonplace at times of limited access to information, organizers of rallies used to manipulate participants to a larger degree.

 

“We have worked out a draft law, which, if approved, can solve all the problems of Azerbaijan. To make this a reality, we need to come to power.’” “We have made one discovery and if we manage to have it patented overseas, the living standards of Azerbaijan’s population might increase five times as much, at the expense of revenues originating from this discovery.” “In the West no one works. Their government gives out money to all, while we work day and night for petty cash. If we come to power….., etc. Promises like these could not be tested at the time as there was no alternative source of information. Politicians of the time would grow to be leaders thanks to such manipulations and win supporters. This kind of manipulations through rallies is now virtually impossible and verification of any promise usually takes hours, if not minutes. The unbiased restriction of manipulation through social base has deprived opposition parties from making traditional speeches and promises. And it is not surprise that the question ‘But what new could such and such person say?’ arises on the eve of each rally because unlike party leaders of the 1990s, people now understand that the period of rallies no longer exists. Everyone knows that the possible effect of sound discussions below some interesting news shared on social media outdoes that of rallies. The only part that fails to understand this is opposition leaders who insist on holding rallies despite ending up in fiasco each time.

Why? We have noted the fact that the opposition can’t keep up with the times. One of the reasons is that the euphoria of 92s still remains in the minds. The government was firstly changed by continuous rallies amid the rampant chaos and current opposition came to power for a shot period of time. Though 24 years have passed the opposition that is unable of comparing the terms of 1992 with 2016 thinks that they could come to power by mass rallies. Their biggest mistake of the opposition is a lack of understanding of the factors that created conditions for the change of power in 1992. If they evaluated the role of chance in the political processes today's scene would have been different. At least, we wouldn’t have seen the opposition falling behind the society for 20 years.

 

Why does the opposition insist on holding rallies though they proved unworthy of being called ‘mass’? Rallies are the only way for radical opposition politicians to give the message of “we still exist” to their poor social base. Thus, these rallies are intended not for society, but for their supporters. Opposition leaders are in great need of it, because decomposition, protests against the leadership activity, staying away from political activity are rapidly increasing within the parties in recent years. Thus, the opposition is trying to extend its political life.

 

Another point is that the opposition doesn’t know the number of its supporters. Following successive failures in elections, the leaders of radical opposition parties try to estimate the amount of their social base by holding rallies. After each rally, they are highlighting the number of protesters instead of speeches and proposals. The rallies held in last ten days have given the answer of this question. The opposition has previously tried to hold unauthorized rallies and explain a small number of protesters with it, as if they were afraid of coming to rallies. The Baku Mayor’s Office authority authorized the rallies in city centers and near metro stations September. The reality is that this small number of people gathering in sanctioned rally makes the opposition to confess its few amount of the social base.

 

The statement from the Baku City Main Police Office confirms up to 4,000 people attended in the last three meetings of the National Council and the Musavat Party. This figure nullifies the concept of ‘social base’. The reality is that nearly 1,500 people attend in any event of the district executive authorities at the local level. The organizers admitted themselves that these rallies were not attended by only members and supporters living in Baku. Present at the rallies were also supporters from different parts of the country. At the moment, the capital city of Baku is home to about 3 million people. It’s necessary to reiterate that this simple truth has shown that the matter is not about a social base.

 

Could it be that opposition’s desire to hold a rally is simply due to the purpose of defining its social base? There is one more thing to mention. We have already mentioned that people’s growing access to information has reduced chances of manipulation through masses. By way of holding such events, opposition seeks to radicalize its limited base and cast doubt into people’s minds. For example, there was an attempt in the latest rally to divide people into two—the religious and the atheist. With such a claim, Ali Karimli, chairman of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) both emphasized the religion factor in political strife and revealed his interest in causing confrontation by highlighting the sensitive issue of religion.

The phrase “On request of foreign forces” is not accidental, because the ongoing processes and mutual accusations within the opposition camp suggest that those resorting to “the tactics of a rally” do not work independently. It’s necessary to recall the events that took place the day before the hearings at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and its influence on US policy. The removal of the name of Erkin Gadirli, a board member of the Republican Alternative (ReAl) Movement in Azerbaijan, from the list of participants of the hearings at last moment led to mutual accusations within the opposition. Erkin Gadirli accused the opposition of his name being removed from the list of participants, claiming that the reason behind this was his remarks on Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. On the contrary, the invitation to the hearings of the son of Ali Karimli caused mutual accusations between ReAl and APFP.

 

An overall analysis of the process shows that overseas there is a competition "Azerbaijan is the strongest opposition is me", and the participants of this competition are trying to prove that carry out orders of the West.

 

An overall analysis of the process show that there is a competition abroad called “I am the strongest opposition in Azerbaijan”, and the participants of this competition are trying to prove that they fulfill the orders of the West.

 

In what form? Of course, in the form “Who instills the Western values in the society well? For example, “Erkin Gadirli is sexist, homophobic, loathsome”, “No I’m not, you are like that. Such “accusations” have one goal – to come to the fore in the eyes of the West and prove their superiority over the rival opposition force.

 

The polemics shows that to win the respect of the West, the opposition is ready to prove that it is a bearer of any values incompatible with mentality and even “inflict a blow” on his allies.

 

Let’s turn our attention to the status Erkin Gadirli posted on his Facebook page after his name was removed from the list of participants of the hearings.

 

“Those people were offended by me. They told that they trusted me; however, I didn’t justify their confidence. I didn’t say anything about the emotional side of the matter, but I wrote I could explain the matter. They did not want my explanation. The congressmen made this decision for fear that Armenians or journalists (who attended the hearing) might object to my participation, and it might disrupt the event.

 

So, one of the demands of international organizations is "not to offend the Armenians."

 

As a matter of fact, Ali Karimli’s son Turkey Karimli sat at the hearings next to Armen Sahakyan, who is the son of Bako Sahakyan, head of the separatist regime created in the Armenian-occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

 

No further comment is needed.

 

APA Analytical Center

 

 

 

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