A version of this article first appeared on 8 November on
Azer Gasimli, chairman of the council of the opposition Republican Alternative Party (ReAL), resigned from the party due to disagreements with its leader Ilgar Mammadov.
Gasimli, who had been Mammadov's second-in-command, accused the leader of an authoritarian leadership style, Turan reports.
“Today, Azerbaijan has established an authoritarian regime and promotes authoritarian practices everywhere. The Azerbaijani opposition, and political organizations that consider themselves as alternatives have to show their full alternatives. But the process that is going on at ReAL today is that they [the government] have set up an authoritarian regime and we have to build up our own authoritarian regime.”
Gasimli noted that he has left Ilgar Mammadov's party, rather than the ReAL family. He also added that he had no intention of leaving politics.
So far, well-known names such as historian Altay Goyushov, lawyer Khalid Bagirov, and economists Azer Mehdiyev and Rovshan Agayev have left the party at different periods for various reasons. But it is the first time a board member has left the party claiming “authoritarianism" in the ranks. Therefore, the incident is being actively discussed in the media and on social networks.
What is REAL and who is Ilgar Mammadov?
Republican Alternative (ReAL) is an unregistered Azerbaijani opposition political party. It grew out of a movement with the same name founded in 2009 by a group of young opposition politicians.
Movement leader Ilgar Mammadov was about to run for president in 2013, but was arrested and sentenced to prison on charges of organizing unrest. International human rights organizations recognized him as a prisoner of conscience and demanded his release for several years. Ilgar Mammadov was released on probation in August 2018.
The REAL party will participate in the parliamentary elections in 2020.
What is Gasimli unhappy about?
A few days ago, Ilgar Mammadov proposed reforming the structure of the party. Namely, to abolish the board, the council and the control and audit commission, and instead establish a single structure conditionally called the Political Committee.
Azer Gasimli did not like this idea. He stated that this was a blow to the collective decision-making order and left the party.
“No one can check the work of the board. Lack of advice means the absence of a structure that will call the board to account and demand a report from it,” he explained his decision.
Until now, REAL has created the impression of a very united party. If there were conflicts inside it, neither journalists nor the public knew about this.
What is happening now is REAL’s first disagreement, made public.
Many party members responded to Gasimli’s move negatively. But there are those who supported him and even left the party with him.
Ilgar Mammadov himself has not yet commented on what has happened.
Party Executive Secretary Natig Jafarli is completely on the side of the leader:
“ReAL has never been and cannot be a party of one. Every morning Ilgar Mammadov arrives at the office ahead of time and makes tea, ordinary party members can come to him at any time and express all their complaints and suggestions. It is completely inappropriate to accuse such a person of authoritarianism. ReAL is an organization of leaders who have always been able to leave aside personal insults and ambitions. So it is and so it will be!”
Party Chairman Erkin Gadirli spoke more vaguely:
“Azer Gasimli didn’t lose anything having left ReAL. But for ReAL, this is a heavy loss. That was not supposed to happen. ReAL should not have been faced with a choice: to remain in place without losing anything, or to go forward with losses. Azer left, putting the party before such a choice. He moved too quick. ReAL lost Azer, but he did not lose himself. And our friendship also did not go anywhere. Good deeds are slow [to carry through]. We have nowhere to hurry.”
ReAL Secretary for Human Resources Togrul Ismailov was among those who left the party.
“One way or another, I will not lose my moral attachment to ReAL. But I do not agree with the new rules of the game,” he says.