Even if it sounds cynical: For Azerbaijan permanent president Ilham Aliyev, Corona is a godsend. Now that the whole world is concerned with the pandemic and also to a certain extent with itself, the autocrat thinks it can deal with the hated opposition even more effectively than before. In the shadow of the virus, the entire range of instruments is used these days, with which the regime tries to silence critical voices even in “normal times”.
Opponents are rented out, threatened and assaulted. They are arrested on flimsy grounds, such as vandalism and alleged violations of quarantine requirements, and initially remain in prison until further notice. The word “Corona prisoners” is already circulating in the ranks of critical spirits.
This goes hand in hand with a verbal build-up of state power. She now thinks she is fighting “enemies”, “subversives” and “shameful representatives of a fifth column”, which must be isolated.
Yet Aliyev should not overestimate his ability to use the Corona crisis for his political ends. Although it was the general election last February again falsified shamelessly in favor of those in power to ensure the desired result. But the lively participation of many young, different-minded activists has shown that something is beginning to change in the South Caucasus Republic too.
In addition, large sections of the population tend to be skeptical about official government statements. This is especially true in Corona times. Some imprisoned opposition figures can still ignore people with ignorance. An infection that can potentially affect anyone and, at worst, can kill. In plain language: Aliyev and Co. are now under closer observation. Maybe that’s positive news.
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