Oil in the Family

Managing Presidential Succession in Azerbaijan

Article appearing in Democratization, Volume 10, Issue 1

  • Author:
  • Scott Radnitz
  • Publisher: Taylor and Francis Journals
  • Date: 2012

This article argues that Azerbaijan did not display a backlash against the ‘colour revolutions’ in the post-Soviet space because the primary threat to the regime came from within, and not from below. Thanks to the overlap of power and property in Azerbaijan, the ruling elite’s revenues from oil resources, and the failure of international actors to support the opposition, civil society did not pose a major challenge to the regime’s dominance during the ‘revolutionary’ period in the mid-2000s. However, there was a risk that the regime could fragment due to factional in-fighting. President Heydar Aliyev had laboured to consolidate power throughout the 1990s after years of turmoil, and, although Azerbaijan was stable by 2003, his passing did not guarantee a smooth transition. Instead, his successor – his son, Ilham – had to carefully manage rival factions to maintain the political status quo. The article argues that scholars of post-Soviet politics, though usually drawn to formal political opposition as a source of potential change, should also pay attention to the divisions among those in power, and not take a unitary state for granted.