Oil Wealth, Patrimonialism, and the Failure of Democracy in Azerbaijan
Author(s): Farid Guliyev
Editor(s): Lili Di Puppo, Iris Kempe, Matthias Neumann, Robert Orttung, Jeronim Perovic
Series: Caucasus Analytical Digest (CAD)
Publisher(s): Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich; Jefferson Institute, Washington D.C.; Heinrich Böll Foundation, Tbilisi; Research Centre for East European Studies, University of Bremen
Publication Year: 2009
Azerbaijan's democratization attempts failed, not least because for those in power, control over the political process was essential in order to gain and maintain control over the country's petroleum riches. Organization of power along patrimonial lines defines the system that Azerbaijan's late president Heydar Aliyev created during his long rule and which his son, Ilham Aliyev, continued. This system distributes rents from oil exports through a patronage network in order to ensure the support of allies and various clientelist groups. The high oil-price environment of 2003–2008 brought an enormous increase in revenues from oil exports. Since about 2005–06, the government did not even care to maintain the façade of democracy as it did during the 1990s. The drop in oil prices will probably make the government pursue a more careful policy, but political change is unlikely as long as the system remains based on sharing the spoils from oil exports and keeping the public marginalized and powerless.