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Azerbaijan Report: August 20, 2003

20 August 2003
Elections To Be Held As Scheduled Regardless Of Controversial Article
On 15 August the Constitutional Court reconsidered Article 179.1 of the Election Code in response to an inquiry made by the Prosecutor-General's Office. This clause 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. According to the Constitutional Court, the presidential elections in the country will be held on 15 October according to schedule, regardless of the article.

Following the publication of the code in official newspapers, opposition parties protested against Article 179.1. They claimed the published version of the adopted election law differed from the one adopted by the parliament. The opposition insisted that Article 179.1 was added to the code by the president after deputies approved the code in the final reading. The opposition appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office to ask the Constitutional Court to clarify the situation.

According to government officials, the Prosecutor-General's Office asked the court to interpret Article 179.1 based on the opposition's appeal. But independent observers suggest that the prosecutor's office has taken the opposition's appeal as a formal argument. At present, Article 179.1 has lost its attraction for the government, since this clause was intended to give the governing party an additional three months to appoint another candidate, if there were serious problems with President Heidar Aliev's health. However, the president's son Ilham Aliyev was also nominated for the elections along with his father. Therefore, if there is a serious danger to the head of the state's health, the ruling command has a reserve candidate, Ilham Aliev.

(Natig Zeinalov)

Twelve Candidates For 15 October Presidential Election
Last week the Central Election Commission (CEC) completed the registration of candidates for the presidential elections scheduled for 15 October. A total of 12 presidential nominees were registered.

The first person approved as presidential candidate was incumbent President Heidar Aliev. Heidar Aliyev was born in 1923 in Nakhichevan. Until 1969, Aliyev worked at the Committee for State Security (KGB). In 1969-82 he occupied the position of first secretary of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party. In December 1982, Aliyev was promoted to the post of first deputy chairman of the USSR Concil of Ministers and from candidate to full membership of the Politburo. In 1987 he was fired from both posts. In 1990, Aliyev was elected as a deputy of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan, in 1991-93 he was the chairman of the Supreme Majlis of Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. On 15 June 1993, Heidar Aliyev became the chairman of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan and on 3 October 1993 he was elected the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan. In 1998 Aliyev was re-elected to this position for another term.

The incumbent president's son, Ilham Aliev, who was registered as the second candidate, was born in 1961 in Baku. In 1982 he completed his bachelor's degree from Moscow State University's faculty of international relations. After continuing with his graduate work he received a master�s degree in history and international relations in 1985. Until 1990, Aliyev junior was a teacher at Moscow State University in the International Relations faculty. In 1991-94 he was engaged in commercial activities in Moscow and Istanbul. Since 1994, he has been serving as the first vice president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR). Since 1995, he has been a member of the parliament and president of the National Olympic Committee since 1997. Ilham Aliyev is also the head of the Azerbaijani delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as well as a vice president and bureau member at this institution. On 4 August 2003 he was also elected to the post of prime minister.

The third nominee approved by the CEC is Isa Gambar, chairman of the opposition Musavat Party. Gambar was born in 1957 in Baku. He graduated from Baku State University's History Faculty. Until 1991 he worked at the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences. Gambar was one of organizers and leaders of the opposition People's Front. In 1992 he was elected the chairman of Milli Majlis. One year later, he resigned from this position. Gambar led the restoration of the Musavat Party and at present is the chairman of this party, which stands in opposition to the present government.

Another candidate for presidency is Adalat Party Chairman Ilias Ismailov. Ismailov was born in 1938 in the district of Tovuz. He graduated from Baku State University's Law Faculty. Ismailov, who continued his higher education at various educational centers in Russia, received the title doctor of legal sciences. Ismailov has a long experience working with the prosecutor's office in Baku and Moscow. He has held the position of prosecutor-general as well as the minister of justice. After resigning as minister, Ismailov led the Adalat Party, but after the party's merger with the Democratic Party he became the co-chairman of the latter party along with Rasul Guliev. Since 2000 he has once again become head of the Adalat Party.

Another presidential candidate is Hafiz Hajiev, chairman of the Modern Musavat Party. He was born in 1956 in Armenia, graduated from the Institute of Agriculture in Ganja, and received a candidate degree in biological sciences in St. Petersburg. Hajiev worked for a long time in the Communist Party and Komsomol organizations in the district of Kalbajar. In 1991-92, he worked as the head of the Azerbalig State Fishing Concern and afterward the head of a committee of the same name. Before 1999 he was arrested and imprisoned for various terms. In 2001 Hajiev founded the Modern Musavat Party, which actively supports the government.

Abutalib Samadov, chairman of Alliance for Azerbaijan, was born in 1961 in the town of Tovuz and in 1987 he graduated from Baku State University's Law Faculty. In 2000 he was elected a a parliament deputy. Samadov's party also supports the existing Azerbaijan leadership.

Gudret Hasenguliev, head of a splinter group that broke away from the People's Front Party (AXCP), was born in 1965 in the district of Julfa, Nakhichevan. After graduating from Baku State University's Law Faculty, he joined the AXCP In 1993 he was assigned as the assistant to the state secretary. In 2000-02 he worked as a secretary to the Central Election Commission, and in 2002 he was elected to parliament. Despite his assertions that his party is in opposition to the government, it is known for its pro-government statements.

Civil Unity Party (VHP) Chairman Sabir Rustemkhanli, who is also registered as a presidential candidate, was born in 1946 in the Yardimli district. In 1968 he graduated from Baku State University's Philology Faculty and worked as a poet and publicist. In 1988 he joined the national-independence movement and in 1990 was elected a deputy to the Azerbaijan SSR Supreme Soviet. In 1991-95 he worked as minister of press and information. In 1992 Rustemkhanli founded the Civil Unity Party which he still heads. Although the VHP presents itself as an opposition party, it avoids harsh criticism of the government.

Presidential candidate Etibar Mamedov, head of the opposition National Independence Party (AMIP), was born in 1955 in Baku. Mamedov graduated from Baku State University's History Faculty with a candidate of historical sciences degree. Mamedov, who was one of organizers of the national-independence movement, was elected in 1990 as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet. He held the position of deputy of the parliament until 2000. His party is in opposition to the government and does not accept the government's political course.

Ali Kerimli, also registered as a presidential candidate, is head of the opposition AXCP "reformist" wing. Kerimli was born in 1965 in Saatli district and graduated from Baku State University's Law Faculty. Kerimli, who joined the freedom movement as a student, was AXCP deputy chairman until the death of the party's leader, Abulfaz Elchibey. In 1992-93 he also occupied the position of state secretary. He has been a parliament deputy since 1995.

National Unity Party Chairman Yunus Oguz, who is also among the presidential candidates, was born in 1960 in Ali-Bairamli. Oguz graduated from Rostov State University's Philosophy Faculty. After joining the national-independence movement, he was a member of the AXC board of directors and worked as the presidential adviser in 1992-93. Oguz headed the People's Freedom Party, the Society for Azerbaijan's Integrity, and other organizations. At present he is the chairman of the National Unity Party and the executive director of the newspaper "Olaylar" and the news agency of the same name. Although the Oguz-led organization describes itself as an opposition party, it is known for statements in support of the government.

Lala Shovkat Hajieva, the only female presidential nominee, was born in 1951 in Baku. Hajieva, was a student of the Azerbaijan Medical Institute and various institutes of higher education in Russia, and is a doctor of medical sciences. In 1993, she was appointed as state secretary, but one year later she handed in her resignation. Hajieva, who led the Liberal Party until 2003, is at present this party's honorary chairwoman.

As a number of presidential candidates -- Lala Shovket Hajieva, Sabir Rustemkhanli, and Hafiz Hajiev -- failed to submit the required number of valid signatures, their candidacies were approved on the condition they agree to forfeit their registration deposit. But none of the nominees agree with the CEC experts' ruling that some signatures were invalid.

(Natig Zeinalov and Shahnaz Beilergizi)

According to the pro-governmental newspaper "525," the OSCE observers� group will visit Azerbaijan in September. The group will become acquainted with the course of the election process in the provinces, within the support program for the presidential elections. The group consisting of some 25 international experts will work in the capital and various regions. The observers will complete their mission after the official results of the voting have been declared. They will prepare a report for the OSCE leadership.

In the article "Hesitations" published in the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman," Nasimi Pashaev writes that "the government, on one hand, is engaged in campaigning for Ilham Aliev, but on the other hand, it does not forget Heydar Aliyev either; or rather, the government is trying to win points for Ilham by using the name of his father." According to Pashaev, Ilham can succeed in nothing without his father, the president. The New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) is at present engaged in propaganda on behalf of Heydar Aliyev by organizing concert programs. The government, which brings musicians together every weekend in Sumgait and Baku, is seeking to collect votes for the incumbent president. But such events, which are held under the slogans including "The people say 'yes' to Heydar Aliev," and "Heydar Aliyev is an eternal and irreplaceable president," are instilling a sense of hatred among the people. The people, who are sure that President Aliyev will not be able to participate in the elections, are trying to understand the reason for such campaigns. Pashaev notes that the slogans expressed are reminiscent of a monarchy rather than a democracy, since only a king could be eternal. "The government is in hesitation. What is interesting is that the people's will is not taken into account. Both the government and the opposition fail to rely on the will of the people in conducting their campaigns," the author concludes.

In an interview with the independent newspaper "Tezadlar," historian-ethnographer Khalieddin Khalilov, an activist of the national independence movement, said that it is unclear whether President Aliyev is alive or not. Khalilov suggested that the ruling team is attempting to create artificial panic among the population in that way. If government authorities were free of this fear, 50 percent of them would hand in their resignation. Touching on Ilham Aliev's statement that "he is not ambitious for presidency and will work together with his father's command," Khalilov noted that Aliyev junior wants to be president, but it is true that he would work under his father's team, since he is not in a position to form a new one of his own. "To date he has not organized anything more complex than a card game."

Commenting on the issue on nominating a common candidate from the opposition, National Independent Party (AMIP) deputy chairman Meherrem Zulfugarli said in an interview with the independent newspaper "Uch Nogta" that the people want right-centrists, meaning the opposition leaders who began their political careers in the national independence movement, to unite. Experience of other countries shows that there is no insurmountable obstacle to doing this. In Bulgaria, 16 parties have come together and solved the common candidate issue. "But in our country this is somewhat easier. In other words, there are four or five parties accepted by international organizations and an alliance of these parties is quite possible."

Elshad Miralem, in the article "Who promises what?" in the government newspaper "Azerbaycan" notes that the opposition does not even possess a concrete action program that contains tools to ensure the preservation of current successes. Most parties represented in this camp have never considered this possibility at all, while others have succeeded in preparing only the cover page of their programs. The main purpose is not to make promises to the people, but to be able to convince the people how and by what means these promises will be realized, writes Miralem. According to the author, candidates from the opposition could promise the people wellbeing, employment and the return of the occupied territories in Karabakh. However, they will never be able to see these promises through, as they themselves do not know how to do it.

Adalat Party chairman Ilias Ismailov said in an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Ekho" that there is no serious problem here regarding the legality of Ilham Aliev's appointment as prime minister. The president has the right to submit somebody's candidacy to the parliament. But a moral problem emerges here. "Why has the president nominated his son's candidacy? Because Heydar Aliev, who has ruled both Soviet and post-Soviet Azerbaijan for 30 years, has not produced any high-level personnel during all of these years. And now, all television stations are advertising the father and the son. The father is the president, the son is the Prime Minister--this not a very good scenario." According to Ismailov, one of the country's main problems today is the hostile relationship between the government and opposition. The government must certainly change its attitude toward the opposition as well as accepting the opposition as a potential ally.

Javanshir Hesenli in the article "Whom to elect?" published in the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" points out that certain significant processes, which have long been expected in the political arena, have started. The beginning of the propaganda campaign, as one of the main stages in preparation for the presidential elections, has brought a new atmosphere to the political scene. It is natural that all attention is now directed at the further development of relations between the parties, especially within the radical opposition camp, which tries to display the appearance of unity in the streets. The election competition will almost come to resemble a fight between gladiators, Hesenli predicts. It is possible that this struggle will even wreck the system of political relations which has been formed over the last few years.

In an article entitled "The government's theft of US$100 million" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Vusal Gasimli writes that the rise in prices of main consumer goods demosntrates that political stability in Azerbaijan is crumbling. Gasimli points out that the artificial raising of prices means huge additional sources of income for the government. Touching on the frequently asked questions "How will an increase in salaries and pension be provided?" the author suggests that tens of millions of dollars, which are stolen from the people as a result of the increase in prices of goods such as bread, cement and natural gas, could afterward be distributed to the people in the forms of salary and pension increases.

Khalid Jeferli in the article "The government's face is corruption" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" points out that the existence of serious gaps in the legislation regarding the struggle with corruption is irrefutable. The country's leading lawyers, as well as some officials acknowledge the presence of shortcomings and serious gaps in most laws. Irrespective of whether it is wanted or not, the abuse of power by the country's most governmental officials has become an everyday occurrence. The author writes that speaking about corruption, it is impossible to ignore the possible impact on the country�s economy. According to leading Western publications, every year some US$1,000 million are illegally taken out of the country. In other words, the origin of this money is either concealed or not shown. These media sources point out that this money derives mainly from the oil sector. The author writes that at present there is only one owner of the country's oil and there is no need to comment on who that person is.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)