You could call them the yin and yang of Azerbaijani politics. For nearly the past 20 years, whenever an Aliyev has been president of Azerbaijan, poised against him have been 55-year-old Isa Gambar and 47-year-old Ali Kerimli, leaders of the country’s two largest opposition forces, the Musavat Party and the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan.
But, now, in the run-up to the country’s 2013 presidential election, one prominent young civil-society activist and his supporters are asserting it’s time Azerbaijan found other opposition politicians to lead the charge. The dispute reflects not only a difference in perspective on tactics, but also an apparent generational divide between the middle-aged Gambar and Kerimli, who entered politics under Soviet rule, and younger, often foreign-educated, activists, who have come of age in an era when change can seem just a mouse-click away.
As in the past, the political argument is playing out primarily in Baku, among highly educated intellectuals and white-collar workers. But unlike in the past, it is a dispute that gets its momentum from the Internet.
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Shahla Sultanova is a freelance journalist focusing on Azerbaijan.