Innermost thoughts of President of Azerbaijan
Because I inherited Azerbaijan from my Dad, it was long assumed I was just an amiable guy with little aptitude for the harsh realities of politics. A big mistake! I have everything under control. If a journalist refers to me, my wife or my associates in less than laudatory terms, he will soon learn what I am made off. Death threats, kidnappings – my thugs stop at nothing. But that doesn’t prevent us from sometimes acting with tact. With the help of sex tapes and rumours, smear campaigns are often enough to bring our opponents to heel.
Directly or indirectly, I control all the TV stations. We have banned the BBC, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America from FM broadcasting in Azerbaijan since 2009 because they were trying to make trouble. My men have hounded the opposition press so much that there’s little left – just enough for us to be able to tell the outside world that Azerbaijan is a democracy.
Still, I couldn’t care less about a democratic façade because if you give democrats an inch, they take a mile. The street protests in the spring of 2011, prompted by the Arab Spring, gave me a scare. I had the leading opposition bloggers arrested but the rumblings continue. It’s a pity because now we are getting ready for a new election, a presidential one in October, so do you imagine I’m going to let people do as they wish? That wouldn’t be worthy of an Aliyev.
Maybe they thought I was a softy when I took over from Dad, but the time for softness is long gone. The opposition newspaper Azadlig managed to keep going for years despite arrests, abductions, threats and beatings, but now it’s on the brink of asphyxia. At last! I am always calling for tougher legislation. It is especially easy at the moment – all you have to do is copy the laws being adopted in Russia. I still tolerate the Internet but I’ve told the security services to be on the lookout. At the least sign of trouble, we block all the irksome websites and jail everyone.
Anyway, our coffers are overflowing with so many petrodollars we no longer need to bother with even a pretence of democracy. Silence is like praise, it can be bought. Our generosity has won over many formerly fierce critics at home and abroad. Last January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe tried to pass a resolution “on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.” We got our way. It was rejected. Obviously. What were they thinking? Business is too important. There was too much at stake for me to let the troublemakers talk. Fortunately, Dad taught me how to make dissidents shut up.