The Appearance of Opposition Parties
The political and social groups that sprang up in Azerbaijan
in the late 1980s were initially termed "informal organizations"
because they were not yet recognized as legal under Soviet
practice. By the end of 1988, about forty such organizations had
emerged, many of them focused on nationalism or anti-Armenian
issues. The ACP was increasingly regarded as illegitimate by the
population, especially after the Soviet army intervened to
protect the communist regime in January 1990.
The Azerbaijani Popular Front
Widespread discontent with ACP rule led to the formation of
the APF in March 1989 by intellectuals, including journalists and
researchers belonging to the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences. The
APF's founding congress in July 1989 elected Abdulfaz Elchibey
party chairman. The APF characterized itself as an umbrella
organization composed of smaller parties and groups and likeminded individuals. A central plank of its program was rejection
of self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh and defense of
Azerbaijani territorial integrity. In its initial policy
statements, the APF advocated decentralization of economic and
political power from Moscow to Baku rather than Azerbaijani
independence from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the ACP refused
to recognize the APF.
Within months of its foundation, the APF had hardened its
position, launching a series of industrial strikes and rail
service disruptions calculated to force recognition by the ACP.
By the fall of 1989, the APF was at the forefront of Azerbaijani
public opinion on the issue of national sovereignty for NagornoKarabakh , and the ACP recognized the APF as an opposition party.
The APF used its influence on the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet, the
republic's parliament, in advocating the Law on Sovereignty that
was passed in October 1989. In January 1990, APF-led
demonstrations against the ACP brought Soviet military
intervention. In early 1992, the APF played an important role in
organizing demonstrations against then-president Ayaz Mutalibov.
Data as of March 1994