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Orange Revolution in Ukraine, 2004. Photo: artdiamondblog.com
Orange Revolution in Ukraine, 2004. Photo: artdiamondblog.com

In 2005, Azerbaijan was preparing for the parliamentary elections scheduled for November. This was to be the first parliamentary ballot since Azerbaijan's accession to the Council of Europe in January 2001 and since Ilham Aliyev's ascendance to presidency in 2003. With the exception of the 1992 presidential elections which brought Abulfaz Elchibey to power, none of the elections in post-Soviet Azerbaijan had met democratic standards. But this time, things promised to be different.

The Azerbaijani opposition, fractured and humiliated after the defeat in the October 2003 presidential elections, took a major step forward in May 2005 by forming an electoral bloc called Azadliq (Freedom). The bloc united three key parties - Musavat, the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, and the Democratic Party. Azadliq, inspired by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, adopted the orange colour as a symbol of protest and political change. The Azadliq campaign "attacked the Aliyev regime as a 'corrupted dictatorship that continues to rob the Azerbaijani people.'"[1]

The logo of the oppositional Azadliq electoral bloc - the motto translates as ' chose freedom, be free'
The logo of the oppositional Azadliq electoral bloc -
the motto translates as ' chose freedom, be free'

Ali Kerimli, chairman of the opposition Azadliq (Freedom) bloc, casts his ballots at a polling station in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, November 6, 2005
Ali Kerimli, chairman of the opposition Azadliq (Freedom)
bloc, casts his ballots at a polling station in Baku,
capital of Azerbaijan, November 6, 2005

Adding to the intensity of the pre-elections expectations was also the palpable change in the political environment throughout the post-Soviet region. This was exemplified in the emerging phenomenon of so-called "colour revolutions", which had already changed the governments in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004).

In the course of the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, non-violent protesters, proclaiming their commitment to democracy and freedom, succeeded in challenging the official results of the rigged ballots. In both cases, the "revolutionaries" had a markedly pro-Western orientation, and in both cases youth organizations (in Georgia, it was Kmara (Enough) and in Ukraine, Pora (It's time) played an important role in the events. In these countries, youth activists drew on the experience of the Serbian youth movement Otpor which achieved the resignation of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in October 2000. The colour revolutions also drew an unprecedented amount of attention from the international media.

Rose Revolution in Georgia, 2003. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Rose Revolution in Georgia, 2003. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The two post-Soviet leaders who were brought to power by the colour revolutions


[1] Anar Valiyev, Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan, A Failed Revolution, Problems of Post-Communism vol 53 no 3, May/June 2006 p 22

[6] Anar Valiyev, "Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan: A Failed Revolution" (Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 53, no. 3, May/June 2006), p. 24-25.

[8] New York Times, David Sanger, May 2005, The World; There's Democracy, and There's an Oil Pipeline

[9] Leila Alieva, "Azerbaijan's Frustrating Elections" (Journal of Democracy, Volume 17, Number 2, April 2006, p. 152.