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Azerbaijan Report: August 6, 2003


6 August 2003
NEWS BRIEFS
Parliament Appoints President's Son To No. 2 Post
The 125-seat Milli Majlis (parliament) at an emergency session on 4 August confirmed Ilham Aliyev as the new prime minister of Azerbaijan at the nomination of his father, President Heydar Aliev. Deputies confirmed the nomination with 101 votes for and one abstention. Opposition representatives boycotted the session.

The move confirms the long-held belief that the president has always intended to ensure a smooth succession of power to his son, following changes to the Constitution last August. Thanks to those changes Ilham Aliyev will assume the presidency should his father die in office or be otherwise incapacitated. Heydar Aliyev remains hospitalized at the Gulhane Military Academy Hospital in Ankara where he has been since July 8.

(RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service)

President's Health Fuels Rumors Of His Demise
Despite repeated statements from government officials that President Heydar Aliyev is doing well at Ankara's Gulhane Military Academy Hospital, the lack any live footage of him has fueled rumors that the president is at death's door, or has even died. Last week a number of Azerbaijani opposition newspapers printed reports, citing the Eurasiaturk Web site (www.avrasyaturk.com) that Aliyev had in fact died. Eurasiaturk sited anonymous sources at the hospital, but to date neither Turkish nor Azeri official channels have confirmed the statement, and Azerbaijani Ambassador to Turkey Mamed Aliyev has repeatedly said that the report was false.

On 1 August the Ministry of National Security issued a statement calling the report "a lie and a new form of the dirty struggle the destructive opposition has been pursuing in the run-up to elections." The ministry also stated that the Web site was registered by Togrul Jangavarli in the U.S. city of Lewiston; however, it added, in reality the site belongs to Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP) chairman Rasul Guliev, who lives in the U.S. The ministry linked two other names to the site: Khanim Khalilova, a functionary of the Yeni Musavat Party in Turkey, and Turkish journalist Irfan Sapmaz. "The false information was prepared and disseminated by them at a meeting at the Marmara Hotel in Istanbul," the statement read.

But ADP secretary-general Serdar Jelaloglu denied the ministry�s allegations as groundless, recalling that earlier the Ministry of Internal Affairs had disseminated a statement that Guliev was preparing to take over the country in a coup.

Ali Ahmedov, who is executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), also pointed out that some opposition media suffer from a lack of professional principals and confuse people by publishing such incorrect and fabricated information.

"The information in www.avrasyaturk.com about the president's death is far from the truth,� he said, and quoted the official Azertag news agency as saying that President Aliev's health is normal and will return home in the near future. Political aims stand behind these reports, he said, noting that the opposition, which knows it has no chance now to come to power through civil and democratic principles, wants to achieve its goal by foul play.

(Maarif Chingizoglu and Babek Bekir)

Opposition, Government End Media 'Cease-Fire'
An agreement reached last week between the government and opposition, intended to put an end to mudslinging in the media, has apparently ended, as government officials level new accusations at opposition media outlets. On 31 July at a meeting initiated by the newly created Press Council, opposition and government representatives agreed to end the long-running war of insults between governmental and opposition newspapers, which has reached an unprecedented level. Participants at the meeting signed a joint statement, which reads that as of 1 August insults in the local media would be replaced by criticism within the framework of ethical norms.

But governmental representatives said that false reports continued from the first day, when some opposition papers reported that President Heydar Aliyev died, referring to a report on the Eurasiaturk Web site.

Parliament deputy Sayyad Aran (YAP) said that opposition newspapers flagrantly violated ethical norms by spreading this false information. But Ganimet Zahidov, editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," noted that his newspaper had not published the report, but simply wrote about the existence of such information, which is different. Zahidov said that the format of the Press Council-initiated meeting between the governmental and opposition representatives was chosen incorrectly, since the governmental officials invited to this meeting did not possess enough authority, and as a result, immediately after the meeting opposition leaders and heads of some newspapers were insulted on the pro-governmental Lider TV channel.

Press Council deputy chairman Elchin Shikhli, who is editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper "Zerkalo," pointed out that opposition newspapers have not confirmed the president's health "as 100 percent fact" and it is difficult to determine whether this corresponds to ethical norms or not. But nevertheless it is wrong to spread information based on only one source.

(Rovshen Ganbarov)

PRESS REVIEW
Local newspapers focused on the appointment to the post of prime minister of the president's son Ilham Aliev, the first vice-president of the State Oil Company (SOCAR), head of the National Olympic Committee, and head of the PACE delegation. Tahir Aranli in an article entitled "The implementation of the 'succession plan' has begun" in the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman" writes "the parliament at its emergency session has approved the appointment of President Heydar Aliev's son Ilham Aliyev to the post of prime minister. So, the first stage of the 'succession plan' which was talked about so much long time, has been implemented. This plan was formulated long ago, as far back as the first years of Heydar Aliev's government� President Aliev's inability to fulfill his duties is a secret to no one, since he is ailing, some even point to his death. There has been no information about him for almost a month." Aranli notes that it was rumored that the president's duties had been seized by the power grouping of Ramiz Mehdiev and Murtuz Alesgerov. It was reported that a coup d'etat was being prepared in the country. Finally, 4 August clarified the matter and other points related to this. Have assembled quickly the country's parliament, consisting mainly of ruling YAP members, announced Artur Rasizade's resignation and confirmed unanimously the candidate nominated by the president. The author points out that this could stimulate the opposition to present a unified front. If they fail to do so, the forces, which are crawling in Heydar Aliev's shadow will become Ilham Aliev's backstage personages for another 10 years.

Ramig Mukhtar in the article "Our hopeful, inspirational tomorrow" in the government newspaper "Khalg" points out that being the son of the world-known statesman and national leader Heydar Aliyev has never prompted Ilham to run after inappropriate glory. On the contrary, he has turned being a great politician's son to a higher demand against himself. He has always tried to be worthy of his father's ideas, deeds and brilliant biography. "At present there is no problem in the country, that Ilham Aliyev could not solve in a manner worthy of his father Heydar Aliyev and our people."

Heziev in the article "Old new appointment" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" suggests that Ilham Aliev's appointment to the post of prime minister was in fact expected. The political decision on this was made a long time ago and the 24 August 2002 referendum on the amendments to the Constitution meant the legal guarantee of this political decision. Double radicalism is revealing itself in the reactions to this event. A group of people falls into euphoria and thinks that Ilham Aliyev will not be able to maintain power; he is weak and it will be possible to bring him down with the first attempt. But others become panic-stricken, arguing that Ilham Aliev's appointment is the end of everything, that the Aliyev family will retain power for another decade at least, and it is impossible to take the country back from them. But both reactions are misplaced. The author writes that the ruling elite tries to keep the country's resources in its own hands and is using them for its own ends. Society is in confusion. Power has been seized again in a new format. President Aliev's decrees on Artur Rasizade's retirement and Ilham Aliev's appointment to succeed him themselves raise questions among the public. If the head of state feels well, as official organs report, why did not he read the appeal himself on television? the author asks. If the head of state's physical health allows him to sign a decree, why he is concealed? If Heydar Aliyev is hidden, this means that these decrees are issued by others on his behalf.

Nijat in an article entitled "The end of trouble" in the pro-governmental newspaper "525" writes that since the appearance of problems with the president's health there have been continuous debates among various groups regarding the country's future and the fate of political power. Surveys show that the majority of the population, which is concerned that the country could fall into anarchy and chaos, is interested in the continuation of Heydar Aliev's political course. According to the author, the appointment of Ilham Aliyev as prime minister has put an end to public aprehension lest the country be plunged into anarchy.

Rasim in the article "Azerbaijan is sliding into civil confrontation" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" notes that the government has taken a further illegal step and brought Ilham Aliyev to the post of prime minister in order to prolong its life. But observers think that by doing so the governmental camp has in fact created favorable conditions for a chaotic situation within the country. Since the country's political circles are well aware that apointing Ilham Aliyev to the post of Prime Minister will be followed by an attempt to propel him into the presidential post, the reaction within the country will be harsh. Rasim points out that most groups within the ruling clan are against the implementation of the president's "succession plan." But if until now Heydar Aliyev was able to prevent these groups from demonstrating their positions openly, but there is no doubt that he is no longer in a position to do so. In other words, serious confrontations within the government should be expected from now on. According to Rasim, this could lead to instability in the wake of Ilham Aliev's appointment as prime minister. Therefore, Ilham Aliev's removal from power is needed to avoid the emergence of chaos within the country.

Rovshen in the article "Ilham and Karabakh" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" points out that it is no secret what Ilham Aliyev will give us as the prime minister. For example, pensions will most probably be increased soon, television will air numerous talks, arguing that Ilham Aliyev will lead the country to prosperity. In other words, the country's wellbeing will depend on the head of state's son. Most people doubt that Ilham Aliyev will be able to execute the president's duties. If the forecast comes true, the prime minister will also be forced to fulfill the functions of supreme commander-in-chief. So, irrespective of his will, he will have to be engaged in such complicated matters as a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. "It is interesting [to speculate] how Ilham Aliyev will act and what he will he say on this issue," Rovshen writes. "One of the variants is that Ilham Aliyev will follow his father's course. �Naturally, in this case nobody will believe that he is going to take our land back." A useless policy that has continued for 10 years has brought no benefit to the country and prolonging will only benefit the Armenians. The author concludes that it is paradoxical to imagine Ilham Aliyev addressing the Karabakh problem.

Mahir Hamzeoglu in the article "Vouchers are rising in price" in the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" points out that the prices for privatization vouchers in the black market have increased and reached 28,000-30,000 manats ($5.7-$6.1). The privatization process has come to a halt in the runup to the presidential elections, but according to Hamzeoglu, it is expected to accelerate after the presidential elections. Among the enterprises slated for privatization, communication companies are of the greatest interest. The privatization of state-owned shares in these enterprises is expected to start at the end of this year. But a foreign company that will prepare such enterprises for privatization was chosen at the beginning of the year on a tender basis.

Farid in an article entitled "The lack of a wheat exchange concerns the Ministry of Agriculture as well" in the independent newspaper "Uch Nogta" writes that the cabinet of ministers and the ministry of economic development want to establish a wheat exchange. Despite the existence of the law "On grain," the government has yet to draft a plan for creating the exchange. Meanwhile the structure of production of agricultural products is changinga and grain crops are gradually gaining superiority as one of the country's main products. As a result, the area planted with grain crops has increased by 40 percent during the last five years and amounts to 820,000 hectares. But the new structure for agricultural production creates certain problems as well. One of the difficulties is the lack of a wheat exchange in the country. Farid thinks that there is a serious need for the creation of such an exchange, since the pricing of grain products is not carried out in accordance with demand. Both grain producers and the country as a whole suffer as a result. Producers sell their products below market value, while the state budget also loses out in terms of reduced taxes. The author points out that the ministry of agriculture has also expressed concern at the lack of a wheat exchange.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)

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