Azerbaijani political parties have been dissolving themselves one after another since a restrictive law went into effect early this year.
All 15 parties that disbanded over the course of March and April were supportive of President Ilham Aliyev's government and effectively existed to create a simulacrum of pluralism in the authoritarian petrostate.
Some indicated that their decision was related to the newly adopted law on political parties but had nothing bad to say about it.
The chairman of the Party of the Enlightened, Gulamhuseyn Alibayli, told Berlin-based news outlet Meydan TV that the party convened and decided to disband, "taking into account current geopolitical and political-legal realities," without elaborating any further.
Others produced longer statements. The Azerbaijan Liberal Democrat Party, which was founded in 1999, effectively acknowledged that it no longer had a reason to exist, particularly since Azerbaijan's victory in the Second Karabakh War of 2020.
"After the law 'on political parties' was adopted, a working group was established in the party to adjust the party's activities to the provisions of the new law. Against the background of the new political realities, the majority of party members agreed to end the activities of the ALDP," the party said in a statement published by local news outlet Musavat.com.
"Most of the party members say that following the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from occupation they will continue as citizens to support the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in solving other problems."
The new law had several prohibitive requirements which were expected to result in the deregistration of a number of parties. One of them was the need to have 5,000 members whose names and addresses are to be submitted to a relevant state supervisory body.
None of the newly dissolved parties were represented in the current legislature. But at least one parliamentary party -- which does not support the authorities -- is also experiencing the stifling effect of the law.
Ilgar Mammadov, chair of the Republican Alternative Party, which has one seat in parliament, warned supporters on April 12 that his party will face deregistration if it fails to sign up 5,000 members. If that happens, he wrote on Facebook, "you will not be able to vote for us in the next elections, and in turn we will not be able to question the Aliyev government's policy." (Two weeks later he said the party was most of the way there.)
On March 13, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) released a joint opinion on Azerbaijan's law on political parties. "The new law has introduced a number of new highly problematic provisions which risk having further chilling effects on pluralism in the country," the report said, singling out for criticism the membership threshold, the need for already existing parties to re-register, the prohibition on parties operating without registration, and the overregulation of internal party structures.
The dissolution of the pro-government parties, many of which weren't known for actually doing anything and which appeared to contentedly accept their fate, was met with humor by some.
"Each ran away with their own excuses. However, it is clear to everyone that the new law on political parties was the last blow that sent our old parties to hell," columnist Zamin Haji wrote for Musavat.com. "I certainly don't mean to claim that those parties created some wealth in our political world, or that they even could have served as a band-aid for a cut finger. Most of them, perhaps all of them, were dead when they were alive, and some were just born dead."