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Azerbaijan: Networking Its Way to Political Change?

With eight months to go before Azerbaijan holds a presidential election, a series of recent initiatives suggests citizens are becoming more politically active, and Facebook, along with other social networking platforms, is shaping up as a campaign wild card.

President Ilham Aliyev is expected to be nominated in the coming weeks as the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party’s candidate. Opposition Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar and jailed Republican Alternative movement leader Ilgar Mammadov are among his potential challengers.

But while the general picture may look familiar – the powerful Aliyev up against various less-powerful opposition politicians – one fundamental difference from 2008 vote exists, analysts note.

“Five years ago, it was enough [for the government] to control TV,” commented political analyst Elkhan Shahinoglu, head of the Baku-based research center Atlas. “Now, doing that does not work, while the Internet, social networks have turned into a strong political factor.”

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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku.

Azerbaijan: Networking Its Way to Political Change?

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