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Azerbaijani Anticorruption Campaign Unfolds Before Wary Public Eyes


Three weeks have passed since the Azerbaijani government launched a well-publicized anticorruption campaign, but authorities have so far failed to convince the public of the sincerity of their intentions.

Though officials swear that the campaign is neither fleeting nor a result of foreign influence, people continue to seek to tie them to recent revolts in the Arab world.

One after another, government ministries have organized show meetings and announced numbers of employees dismissed for corruption, but the public hesitates to believe competing numbers.

And the cynical national press continues to expose embarrassing shortcomings of the anticorruption campaign. In one such recent case, local daily "Bizim Yol" revealed that the Education Ministry included the names of dead or retired civil servants on its dismissed-for-corruption list.

Observers indeed note some progress in efforts to eliminate corruption -- a recent presidential decree ordering that all fines imposed by traffic police be paid through banks and allocating one-quarter of the amount to the salaries of police officers was hailed by many.

Several high-ranking officials have been dismissed or jailed, and notary offices have started to work in accordance with letter and spirit of the laws.

At some schools, teachers were told in no uncertain terms not to accept any flowers, gifts, or money on 8 March, which is International Women's Day.

However, where bribery and corrupt practices showed signs of waning, red tape and bureaucracy immediately popped up.

At government offices, the amount of paperwork and the number of required documents have risen significantly, ordinary citizens now complain.

In Ganja, Azerbaijan's second-largest city, car owners couldn't get their vehicles through official checkups because the computers at the relevant office of traffic police mysteriously stopped working.

Outside customs offices near Baku, those who wanted to get customs clearance for cars purchased abroad told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service (Radio Azadliq) that the winds of change haven't reached those places at all.

On Monday, scores of truck drivers gathered in front of Azerbaijan's parliament to complain about corruption at the Transportation Ministry and then headed to the seat of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani authorities continue to appear firm in their "fight against corruption," as they label it.

A member of the State Anticorruption Commission who is also a lawmaker, Ali Huseynov, has said that new legislation is being prepared to boost anticorruption efforts.

As Ali Hasanov of Azerbaijan's presidential administration told ANS Press, a local news agency, "This fight against corruption will reach its logical end."

-- Ali Novruzov

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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