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Azerbaijan Report: June 16, 2003

16 June 2003
President Makes Eleventh-hour Addition to Election Code
The published version of the newly adopted election code fundamentally differs from the one adopted by the parliament, said Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar at a 9 June press conference. Gambar noted that the president has inserted an addendum to the code, which states that if the president is unable to fulfill his duties for any reason, he can end the election campaign at any point and call for extraordinary elections.

"If the head of state dislikes the situation in any stage of the election campaign, he could say that he will resign. Thus the upcoming presidential elections could be cancelled, and new elections would be scheduled," Gambar said. Gambar said that by inserting this addendum to the law, the ruling command wants a chance to disrupt the election process.

But Ana Vatan (Motherland) Party chairman Fazail Agamali, a member of the parliamentary commission on legal policy and state building, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that he sees nothing strange about the addendum to the code. He said that since the author of the law is the president himself, he is free to add any sentence to it.

"I am not acquainted with the published version of the law. But even if the president added a sentence to it, this does not pose obstacles to the candidates participating in the elections," Agamali said.

Nevertheless, on 12 June four opposition parties--Musavat, National Independence, Democratic and Liberal parties--which overcame the 1 percent barrier during the last parliamentary elections drew lots with participation of local media and international organizations in order to determine the names of three opposition representatives who will serve on the Central Election Commission. According to the law, the Central Election Commission is to be composed of 15 members. Six of them will be from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), three from other parties represented in the parliament, three from among independent deputies and three from the four opposition parties that overcame the 1 percent barrier. The lots decided that candidates from the Musavat, National Independence and Democrat parties will be represented, while the Liberal Party will not.

Earlier, the Liberal Party protested against the determination of opposition representatives by drawing lots. But after negotiations with Musavat, National Independence and Democrat parties the liberals changed their minds. Regarding the selection process,Musavat activist Arif Hajiev pointed out that it didn't cause any discontent on the part of Liberal Party members.

(Natig Zeinalov and Almaz Nasibova)

NGOs Demand Right to Monitor Elections
Under the law on NGOs, any non-governmental organizations that receive funding from international sources are not allowed to monitor the voting process. This, say critics, bars virtually all NGOs from the monitoring process.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, Anar Mammedli, executive secretary of the Non-Governmental Organizations Election Monitoring Group, said that organizations within and outside the group are beginning protest actions. For the moment these protests are limited with appeals to local official structures and international institutions. Mammedli noted that the International Foundation of Election Systems (IFES) is supporting them, adding that responses from the OSCE and Council of Europe are expected to be received in the near future.

"If this issue is not resolved before the elections, non-governmental organizations will start mass protests," Memmedli concluded.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Conference Addresses Election Monitoring Issues
Effective coordination of international and local election monitoring missions can help prevent falsification in the upcoming presidential election campaign, said David Sip, the National Democracy Institute's Azerbaijan representative. "Problems remain. Especially, key problems. Notwithstanding our increasing monitoring and observation efforts, bureaucrats have specialized in falsifying the results of elections," Sip said at an 11 June conference devoted to issues related to monitoring the presidential elections.

Ivlian Haindrava, chairman of the Tbilisi-based Center for Development and Cooperation, said that the results of elections in the South Caucasus depend first of all on the composition of the central election commissions. He added that within the region there is a general belief that no alternative exists to the ruling parties of the region. "This means that it will be difficult for others to be elected. Therefore, voters in these countries must ensure that the conditions exist that others, whom they want and who are viable candidates, could be able to come to power."

Arif Hajili, chairman of Musavat's election headquarters, complained of the absence of a democratic pre-election environment in the country.

Charles Lasham, IFES's project director in Azerbaijan, emphasized the need to coordinate the activities of both local and international observers and hold negotiations with the government on the participation of non-governmental organizations in the elections.

The participants of the conference adopted a memorandum regarding the effective organization of international monitoring.

(Kebiran Dilaverli)

Opposition Head's Proposal to Have UN Hold Elections Called 'Unrealistic'
Chairman of the Geyret Party Ashraf Mehdiev has recently suggested that the upcoming presidential election in the country be conducted by the United Nations. Mehdiev expressed concern that the results of the presidential ballot will again be falsified. Therefore, in order to prevent the falsification, the UN must be involved in the elections. He is calling for the collection of 1 million signatures, which would then be presented to the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

Vurgun Eyyub, first deputy chairman of the Musavat Party, called Mehdiev's proposal "unrealistic," although it reflects the realities in the country, since in order to oversee the conduct of elections in Azerbaijan, the UN must get a permission from the country's leadership.

Husein Pashaev, press secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), noted that independent Azerbaijan has repeatedly proved its capacity to hold normal elections. The opposition, which knows only too well that it will be defeated in the elections, simply wants to insure itself in advance, he said.

Independent political scientist Zerdusht Alizade pointed out that "the train has already left the station." He said that the opposition should have campaigned more effectively in 1998 and 2000 in order to have previous elections conducted by the United States.Alizade said that a number of opposition parties as well as the government do not support Mehdiev's proposal.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)

Vusale Mahirgizi in the article "Simply Heydar Aliev" in the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" writes: "Heydar Aliyev is the only statesman of the 20th century, who is known by all in all senses. Aliyev is also unique because he is unpredictable, and thus he is an unknown quantity. This fact itself would be sufficient to understand how difficult to draw Aliev's psychological, philosophic and personal portrait." Mahirgizi says that any person Aliyev points to will then become famous even a remote mountainous region. Despite all the negatives, the life of the person who the world knows well and accepts in many senses is a question even for those who are closely acquainted with him. This person prevails over the people's minds so that it now even seems impossible to think outside his format. But his gravest blow is that he has not created an environment for the ripening of new politicians in the period that follows him. Today the country's policy is engaged in assuming Aliev's tactics, propaganda and campaign methods.

In an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Ekho," former President Ayaz Mutallibov said that he has yet to come to any decision about being a common candidate from the Azerbaijani Forces Union (AQB). "I do not rule out that there would be other variants in connection with my participation in the elections. It is possible that I would participate as an independent candidate," Mutallibov said. He said that he will reveal his definitive decision on the matter in some days after negotiations with his party. Touching on the allegations that he conducts debates with parliament ex-speaker Rasul Guliev in Moscow, the ex-president said that there was no such meeting, but he sees no reason not to meet with Guliev if the opportunity occurs. The newspaper points out that the AQB still hopes that Mutallibov will be its candidate. But there are a number of problems within the AQB as well. According to Seiran Mirzaev, deputy chairman of the Social Democrat Party (ASDP), Mutallibov would face a number of problems if he decided to return to the country from Moscow. And now ASDP chairman Araz Alizade is determined to announce his candidacy. Two other AQB leaders--Alikram Aliev, chairman of the Islamic Party, and Jabrail Aliev, deputy chairman of the Vahdat Party--are now imprisoned. And if these elders were at liberty, then the common candidate issue could most likely be solved quickly. Nevertheless, Hajibala Nuriev stated that the AQB would have no problems regarding a common candidate. And even if each party united within the AQB nominates its own candidate in advance, one candidate will remain in the final stage.

Under the headline "Common candidate imitation," the governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" points out that the issue of a common candidate has again appeared on the agenda of the opposition camp. Although previous discussions on the matter have failed, the opposition's representatives are executing such a political maneuver in order to create the appearance of "common candidate" on the threshold of the presidential elections. A short time remains until the official start of the election campaign and thus current separate negotiations between the opposition leaders are of great interest. The common candidate issue also constitutes a matter of debate between the Musavat, National Independence, People's Front ("reformist faction") and Democratic parties. But an analysis of the situation proves once again that agreeing on a common candidate within the framework of the four is impossible. Specifically, it is unrealistic that Musavat chairman Isa Gambar or Etibar Memmedov of the National Independence Party would step down in favor of each other. The implementation of this idea is impossible since the two persons ambitious for power have mobilized all their political opportunities in this direction.

Zohrab Ismail in the article "YAP cannot not decide on its candidate" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" notes, referring to rumors, that the president will leave for the Cleveland Hospital in the near future. Moreover, a forum of the ruling YAP will be held, and the candidacy of the president's son Ilham Aliev, will be nominated along with the president's. Most likely the government is anxious about a possible situation on the threshold of the election marathon, where the president could not fulfill his duties. Although the legislation allows for a declaration of new extraordinary elections in this case, there is no guarantee that Ilham Aliyev would in that case be the government's candidate. The existence of irreconcilable groups within the government is a secret to nobody; what make them now work together is Heydar Aliev. But it is unclear what position these groups will take and who they will support in Aliev's absence. This is probably why pro-governmental forces are now putting forward Ilham Aliev's candidacy along with that of Heydar Aliev.

An author writing only as Vasif in the article "Heydar Aliyev is expected to resign by 15 June" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" writes that President Aliev's resignation has become a necessity, even for the ruling command. Under existing conditions the ruling clan is forced to think of the fate of its political power as well. Maybe that is why the regime's representatives are making serious attempts to find a second candidate. Mentioning the name of Ilham Aliyev at short intervals can be estimated as a constituent part of this search.

In an interview with the pro-governmental newspaper "525," Ali Hasanov, head of the social-political department within the Presidential Administration, called the nomination by the Ana Vatan (Motherland) Party of both Heydar and Ilham Aliyev as candidates for the presidential elections as the "right choice." According to him, there is nothing strange in the party's decision. Each of the candidates is worthy of the presidency. Hasanov said that the opposition's intention to go to the elections with a common candidate is the internal affair of this camp, adding that he does not doubt that the opposition would lose the presidential ballot anyhow.

Parliament deputy Musa Musaev, a member of the YAP Political Council, who has recently returned from a London meeting of NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, said in an interview with the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan' that NATO's next seminar will be held in November in Baku. NATO's Parliamentary Assembly's secretary general is expected to be visited Baku in July. The alliance officials already feel that the country's government pursues the correct policy for integration into the Alliance. "Our integration into the West is a priority of President Aliev's foreign policy. And NATO appreciate these merits," Hasanov said.

Rovshen Murfetoglu in the article "State funds allocated for the development of the entrepreneurship are not used in full" in the independent newspaper "Uch Nogta" writes: "In the last few years funds which were allocated from the state budget for the development of small and medium entrepreneurship in the country have not been used in full. 13 billion manats (about $2.65 million) worth of investment aid was provided for the development of small business in the 2002 state budget. The fate of this amount still remains unclear." The author pointed out that since the development level of entrepreneurship in the provinces is low, the allocation of loans for effective business programs is often impossible. And sometimes loans are misused, creating certain problems. The author points out that artificial bureaucratic obstacles to the granting of credits prevent farmers from appealing to banks. This requires the creation of more effective mechanisms for the development of the country's business community.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)