There is, of course, no reason to expect anything but prevarication from the government of Azerbaijan, an authoritarian kleptocracy with no compunctions about employing dirty tricks. Still, the regime’s insistence on spouting obvious falsehoods is a dark wonder to behold. With its turn as Eurovision host fast approaching, Azerbaijan is going to great lengths to present a Potemkin village to the world, insisting that all is swell despite vast amounts of evidence to the contrary. Perhaps my favorite counterfactual claim of recent days, though, is this one:
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s son-in-law, pop singer Emin Agalarov, has been confirmed as an act for Baku’s staging of Eurovision, the European Broadcasting Union’s annual pop blow-out, but a senior contest executive maintains that special interests did not play a role in the decision.
In a May 2 statement, the Eurovision.tv website announced that guest acts for the May 22-26 event “combine Azerbaijan’s music and culture and are a synthesis of national traditions and modern trends.” Along with the 32-year-old Agalarov, the Azerbaijan National Dance Ensemble, mugham singer Alim Gasimov and the band Natiq will also take part.
Agalarov’s inclusion, originally announced last month by the Moscow-based singer himself, had sparked criticism about favoritism. First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva heads the organizational committee for the event, which kicks off the day after the May 21 worldwide release of Agalarov’s latest album, “After the Thunder.”
But in emailed comments on May 3, Sietse Bakker, event supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, maintained that “[t]he people who have proposed Emin as [an] interval act have only one interest: To make the best Eurovision Song Contest possible in Azerbaijan.”
If the Azerbaijani government was really intent on making the best contest possible, they might consider letting the nation’s opposition stage a public rally, as would be their right in virtually any other European nation.