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Azerbaijan Report: July 9, 2003

9 July 2003
President Could Call His Supporters to Vote for Ilham Aliev
Local political observers continue to discuss the motives of the nomination of the president's son for the presidential elections. According to some of them, President Heidar Aliyev could call his supporters to vote for his son, Ilham Aliev.

On 4 July the Central Election Commission registered Ilham Aliyev as a presidential candidate in the elections scheduled for 15 October. Earlier a group of voters in Nakhichevan endorsed Ilham Aliev's candidacy and asked the Central Election Commission to register its candidate.

Rauf Mirgadirov, a commentator with the independent newspaper "Zerkalo," said that Azerbaijani legislation does not prohibit the nomination of two candidates from the same political organization. But he called such a situation "abnormal" for the country's social and political life, as well as for the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) as, if there were any significant differences in these two candidates' political views, they would belong to different parties. Mirgadirov suggested that shortly before the election Heydar Aliyev could withdraw his candidature, calling his supporters to vote for Ilham Aliev.

"Heydar Aliyev is likely to withdraw his candidacy just before the ballot," Mirgadirov said. "But should the names of both be included in the list of nominees, I am sure that Ilham Aliyev will be among the first three candidates in terms of votes."

Psychologist Azer Garachenli noted that the registration of both Alievs as presidential candidates could serve the purpose of forming Ilham Aliev's image as the "second politician" worthy of the presidency. He said that should the names of both Alievs remain on the ballot paper to the end, it would be announced that Ilham Aliyev had conceded the elections to his father by a small difference in votes. Thus Ilham Aliyev will be presented to the people as the second politician worthy of the presidential post after his father, the president. Garachenli pointed out that it is difficult to predict the purpose of both Alievs' candidatures. In other words, it is still unclear whether President Aliyev has taken this step because of worries about his health or to create confusion among the public and opposition. Garachenli said that at first sight this situation seems to be splitting the YAP electorate, but in fact it is working in the ruling team's favor. On the one hand, the opposition cannot determine its exact aim, since it does not know whether the father or the son wants to be a president. On the other hand, the public ceases regarding the election process as serious and thus is increasingly unlikely to turn out to vote.

"The transformation of the presidential election into such a laughable and frivolous process creates favorable conditions for the government to falsify the ballot," Garachenli said. "But I think that the simultaneous participation of both Alievs in the elections is based on more serious aims. This serves to create confusion among the people and opposition and to form Ilham Aliev's image as the country's 'second politician'."

(Natig Zeinalov)

ADP Continues Protests In Support Of Its Leader
On 3 and 5 July the Democratic Party (ADP) tried to hold unsanctioned protests in front of the Central Election Commission, against the commission's refusal to register the party's chairman, Rasul Guliev, as a presidential candidate. The protesters demanded that conditions be created for Guliev's return and participation in the elections. Ex-speaker Guliev, who is wanted in Baku on misappropriation charges, now lives in the United States.

The ADP press service reported that about 50 of its members were detained and as many were injured during a number of clashes with the police as they blocked the protesters, who were trying to reach the commission's office.

(Natig Zeinalov)

Constitutional Court Refuses To Consider NGOs Appeal
In response to a local election monitoring organization's appeal, the Constitutional Court has recommended non-governmental organizations (NGOs) appeal to the Central Election Commission on the question of monitoring the presidential elections. The court noted that if the commission does not comply with their request, they could then turn to the Court of Appeal.

Earlier the Election Monitoring Center had appealed to the Constitutional Court over legal restrictions that ban local NGOs that receive funding from international institutions from participating in monitoring the election. In fact, all local NGOs receive such funding and are therefore banned from the monitoring process.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Namig, in an article entitled "The Confrontation Ilham Aliev-Jalal Aliev" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," writes that although Heydar and Ilham Aliyev are father and son, the people closest to them differ radically from one another. Within the family and the government everybody considers Heydar Aliyev to be the "first person." But Ilham Aliyev has serious problems regarding his ranking within the leadership For example, not all the family members agree that the son should be given the presidency. According to a source close to the government, the dissenters on this issue are led by Jalal Aliev, the president's brother. It is said that the relationship between Ilham and Jalal Aliyev is strained and that Jalal Aliyev encourages those around him to do their best to prevent the candidature of his nephew. Namig points out that Jalal Aliyev also exerts pressure on his brother, the President, in this matter. The speculation that voters of Sabirabad and Saatli districts nominated Jalal Aliyev for the presidential elections can be viewed as an example of such pressure on President Aliev. The author suggests that there is no doubt that the president can continue his presidency only after his health improves. Otherwise, he will attempt to pass the baton on to his son.

Aranli in the article "The pot is boiling" in the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman" comments on activities within both the government and opposition in connection with the upcoming presidential election. Aranli writes that such events as the proposal of Ilham and Jalal Aliyev as candidates and the president's refusal to resign don't seem to be matters of free will. There is no doubt that behind these events stand those people who have consolidated power, and the political repercussions of such acts will be felt in the near future. Aranli notes that the opposition's current position is not so optimistic either. Long-term debates over the opposition's common candidate have ended without any result. Each of the opposition political leaders wanted to be president. The split- and-divide tactics, which the government applied in the 1998 and 2000 elections, have succeeded this time as well. All the leading opposition forces participate in the elections with their own "leaders." This, in fact, reduces the opposition's chances of victory to nothing. In other words, confusion and division within the opposition's ranks play into the ruling clan's hands and serve to prolong its life.

Ali Aliev, who is Azerbaijan National Independence Party deputy chairman, said in an interview with the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" that the agreement on mutual commitments during the presidential campaign signed between the parties united under the Opposition Coordination Center can not be viewed as continual. He added that the agreement only promises a certain period of cooperation.

According to the independent Russian-language newspaper "Ekho," Russian President Vladimir Putin's expected visit to Baku has been postponed because of the two suicide bombings over the weekend.

In an interview with the pro-governmental newspaper "525," Leila Alieva, director of the Center for National and International Studies, comments on the outcome of the summit of GUUAM member-states, held on 3-4 July in Yalta. She noted that the United States and Europe share common interests regarding the GUUAM. Both agree that the development of the GUUAM within the regional framework is essential in terms of transportation, which must embrace all three Caucasus countries. Both the United States' and Europe's great interest to this issue indicates that immediately after the settlement of the Karabakh conflict Armenia will also be involved in the regional projects in the Caucasus.

Minister of Education Misir Mardanov, who also participated in the GUUAM summit, spoke in an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" about agreements on education signed bbetwenn GUAM members states. He said that every country has a specific educational system, but as there are no actual differences in such educational subjects as physics, chemistry and mathematics, each country needs its own national program only for history and culture. He recalled that high-ranking U.S. officials also participated in the summit, adding that the United States paid great attention to the cooperation between the member states.

Mahir Hamzeoglu in the article "The increase in wages will cost $80 million" in the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" says that salaries in some fields financed from the state budget have been increased. Hamzeoglu writes that after benefiting from high oil prices, the government is now raising salaries. But he notes that the current increases in salaries and pensions present a risk for the future. The current increase in salaries and pensions is based on the oil factor, rather than a strong economic base. Should the world oil price drop to $12-15 per a barrel as it was in 1998, the country's budget will face a 30% deficit. In this case, the government will be forced either to spend money from the Oil Fund or appeal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan in order to make up the deficit.

Farid in the article "Any bacterium and microbe can be met in the Kur" in the independent newspaper "Uch Nogta" points out that the ecological situation of both the Kur and Araz rivers--which are considered to be the country's two giant water sources--has reached a dangerous level. Armenians continue deliberately to discharge poisonous substances into the Araz, and as a consequence using this river's water has become dangerous. Although this question has been repeatedly raised with international organizations, there is no concrete result. Even the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has issued a special statement on the matter. Farid writes that the ecological situation of the Kur is not satisfactory either. But this river is polluted by Georgians. Although Georgia's capital, Tbilisi--which is situated on the Kur--occupies only 0.5% of the country's territory, it contains one fifth of the population and one third of all industrial production. Therefore, the risk of pollution has increased greatly.

In an interview with the government newspaper "Khalg," Sadai Agababev, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture, said that some purposeful agricultural undertakings have affected the production of cultivated plants. Growth is observed in the sphere of cotton planting.

Under the headline "The Azerbaijani government buys wheat," the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" points out that the Ministry of Economic Development is now negotiating the import of 200,000 tons of wheat at a reasonable cost. This is done in order to prevent flour and bread from rising in price. In comparison with the previous three months, in April the price for the main kinds of flour rose from 850-900 manats per a kilogram to 1,200-1,300 manats. Thanks to the government's measures the situation has normalized. The newspaper writes that as long ago as April the Turan news agency reported the radical rise in flour prices, but at that time the government stated that there was no need for concern or to import of wheat. According to experts' calculations, on average 60,000 tons of flour is used every month in Azerbaijan.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)