Mirza Khazar: A Fight Between Clans In Baku, Or A Sign Of Aliev's Weakness?
Recent commentaries and reports in the Azerbaijani press suggests that a real political struggle is underway between the so- called "clans" represented in upper echelons of power in Baku. The fight between those "clans" intensified last
week when another group representing Western Azerbaijanis (Azerbaijanis from Armenia) created the new "Erivan Birliyi" (Erevan Unity) society. The founders of this new entity insist that their society has no political goals and pursues only "public goals." But in spite of this insistence, most political observers in Baku, as well as most commentators in the Azerbaijani press, believethat the main goal of the "Erivan Birliyi" is to become a sort of "center of power" in the event of Heydar Aliev's demise.
Both arguments seem to be sincere, but an attempt by Western Azerbaijanis to hold on their influence within the upper leadership in Baku suggests that after Aliev's departure they might fail to retain that influence or to maintain the grip on power in the long term. Local observers suggest that the haste in creating this "unity" is a clear sign of the weakness of the Western Azerbaijanis and suggests that they fear for their own future.
Another indication is that Western Azerbaijanis in the upper echelons of power are seriously preparing themselves for the power struggle which will erupt as soon as Aliev departs the political scene. But even if this is true, there are many obstacles restricting the ability of Western Azerbaijanis to actively play a role in the transition of power. One of the obstacles is, as the local press suggests, deep differencies and even hostility between "Erivan Birliyi" and another Western Azerbaijani society, called "Agridag" (the Turkish name for Mount Ararat).
Azerbaijani papers identify as the moving force behind "Erivan Birliyi" Ramiz Mehtiev, who heads the presidential staff. The main player in "Agridag" is Health Minister Ali Insanov. The rivalry between the two is no longer a secret in Baku.
There is another sign that the alleged power struggle will turn into struggle between "clans." According to some reports, the "Alindja" society which was formed in the early 1990's in Baku by elite groups from Nakhichevan, constitutes another influential group within the top leadership. Hostilities between these two "clans" have deepened since Aliev came to power in June 1993. The Nakhichevanis claim that they played a major role in bringing Aliev to power. They complain that despite having done so, they did not receive as much attention as the Western Azerbaijanis did.
One can not exclude the possibility that the rivalry between the Western Azerbaijanis and the Azerbaijanis from Nakhichevan will increase as rumors about President Aliev's health and his upcoming departure from power continue to spread. And as long as those rumors continue to spread, and as long as President Aliev's image on TV continues to worry his close allies, the fight between the "clans" will continue to intensify. As long as the struggle for power continues, it is likely to impact on other political forces and the public in Azerbaijan.
(Mirza Khazar - 22 May 2001 )
RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report
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