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Azerbaijan Report: October 14, 2003

14 October 2003
Experts Predict A State Of Emergency after the Presidential Election
The Central Election Commission (CEC) has issued an appeal to law-enforcement bodies and the Public Prosecutor's Office, demanding that they launch an investigation into various illegal invocations voiced by the opposition media. According to the CEC members, opposition media outlets have been inciting the population towards rebellion and confrontation. Therefore, according to the CEC, law-enforcement bodies must exercise vigilance. According to local newspapers, using the commission's appeal as a basis, the government could declare a state of emergency in the country.

Not long ago Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov accused a number of presidential candidates of making anti-constitutional speeches. He warned that if such speeches were not stopped, his office would take severe measures within the framework of the law.

Ramiz Mehdiev, head of the President's Executive Office, told local media representatives that according to reports which he had read in mass media outlets, the opposition is spreading propaganda among its activists, advising them to go into the streets and disrupt public order on election day. But Mehdiev noted that the government is capable of maintaining internal stability and prevent opposition provocations from affecting the population.

"We have information about this," said Mehdiev. "The corresponding structures are prepared for such events. We will take all measures to prevent such incidents, of course. Such a scenario of developments will not be allowed to take place."

But according to opposition representatives, it is the government which realizes it will lose the elections, that is in fact preparing for the coup. Mehman Javadoglu, the opposition Musavat deputy chairman for press issues, claimed that the government, which wants to create confusion among the population with such a statement, is making the ideological preparations for seizing power. Javadoglu did not rule out that the government would attempt to declare a state of emergency, adding that this would be futile.

Rauf Mirgedirov, commentator for the independent newspaper "Zerkalo," suggested that the policy conducted by the government during the last few months has proved that anything is possible. Therefore, it is possible that Ilham Aliev, who does not appear to be self-assured, will declare a state of emergency as a rash response. But Mirgedirov said that such a step would cast doubt on the next president's legality, as well as strike a blow to the country's international image.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)

Election Falsification Fears Continue Despite Presence of Observers
150 American observers will monitor the election process in Azerbaijan, according to the U.S. embassy in Baku. At the same time, the voting will also be observed by the OSCE and representatives from the Council of Europe, as well as an observers group from the Commonwealth of Independence States (CIS). Yuri Yarov, the head of the group, has expressed his assurance that the elections would be transparent and democratic.

The international observers will also monitor the voting in divisional election commissions, in addition to the district ones. But this has not put an end to allegations regarding election falsification.

According to Ingilab Nesirov, one of the secretaries of the Central Election Commission, 900 observers from the CIS, OSCE and Council of Europe have been registered to date. He predicted that the number of monitors would exceed 1,000, adding that the number of local observers has surpassed 40,000.

Touching on Yarov's statements that the elections will be democratic and transparent, Nesirov said that at a recent meeting at the CEC, Mr. Yarov made further remarks. But after becoming acquainted with the situation, the CIS observers have decided that the elections will indeed be fair and free. Mr. Nesirov called this an "unbiased position." He pointed out that the large number of monitors in these presidential elections signifies that transparency will be secured in the elections.

Asif Mahmudov said that he would like to believe this. He acknowledged that the high number of observers is one of the main conditions required to ensure democratic elections. At the same time, Mahmudov noted that observers have no authority to express opinions about the election process and its outcome. In this regard, Yarov's statement causes a certain inconvenience.

According to Mahmudov, in comparison with previous elections, it will be difficult to resort to falsification this time. But this cannot completely eliminate the concern regarding election falsification.

(Rovshen Ganbarov)

NGO Representatives Plan to Monitor Elections as Individuals
Local non-governmental organizations will not be able to independently monitor the 15 October presidential elections. But the corresponding clause in the election code grants each citizen of Azerbaijan the right to observe the elections and this will be our only opportunity, said Ali Guliev, head of the NGOs Congress.

Rauf Zeini, chairman of the Democratic Election Center under the National NGO Forum, told RFE/RL that the NGO representatives had appealed to both district and divisional election commissions for permission to monitor the elections as individuals. The center was assured that there would be no obstacles.

(Zerkhanim Ahmedli)

In an interview with the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," political scientist Vefa Guluzade said that the Prime Minister and presidential candidate Ilham Aliyev has no alternative but to continue the policy of his father, President Heydar Aliev. According to Mr. Guluzade, Ilham will, of course, pursue this policy in his own way.

Touching on the problems of the Azerbaijani diaspora, Manaf Sebuhi, head of the Azerbaijan-Sweden Committee, said in an interview with the pro-governmental newspaper "525" that the main problem is dispersion. Sebuhi expressed regret that the sense of national responsibility is weakening among the people's representatives and the sense of personal responsibility is increasing.

The opposition newspaper "Mukhalifet" points out that under existing conditions there is a great opportunity for the opposition forces to come together. To date the opposition representatives have never been as polite and tolerant with each other as they have been in this election. According to the article, the fact that the opposition's relations have not been damaged is visual evidence that President Aliyev is no longer alive. If he had been alive, he would have certainly sown seeds of discord among the opposition.

According to the independent Russian-language newspaper "Ekho," during his meeting with voters in Devechi, Ilham Aliyev said that everyday he keeps contact with President Heydar Aliyev and informs him about the situation in the country. The presidential candidate expressed regret that Heydar Aliyev would not be able to participate in the elections because of his health condition.

The governmental newspapers "Azerbaycan" and "Khalg" generally run articles regarding Prime Minister Ilham Aliev's various meetings.

The opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" quotes an unidentified source as saying that the ruling command has predetermined the date of Ilham Aliev's inauguration as a president. This will happen on 20 October at the Republican Palace. Three days after the elections, it will be declared that Ilham Aliyev has been elected as president. These secret plans prove that the hopes instilled by international organizations in the people that the election will be fair and democratic are being shattered once again.

The opposition newspaper "Azadlig" claims, referring to what the paper calls a reliable source, that Ilham Aliev's supporters have physically assaulted National Bank chairman Elman Rustamov. According to the paper, Ilham Aliyev charged Rustamov with providing one of the opposition leaders with a large sum of money. Moreover, the government has revealed Rustamov's plan to sell his property and leave the country.

In an interview with the newspaper "Azadlig," People's Front Party (AXCP) chairman, Ali Kerimli, noted that "we are not interested in a confrontation, in general. Our priority is the country's democratic development and the change of power by elections."

Eflatun Amashov, head of the Press Council, said in an interview with the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" that his institution has a complex approach to issues. "In order to create stability in the press, after the elections we will provide media representatives with uniform journalist cards supported by the OSCE." Mr. Amashov pointed out that the Council seeks to introduce certain privileges bestowed by these cards, such as benefits while using transport and other services within and outside of the country.

In another article, the newspaper notes that the price for vouchers enabling individuals to participate in the privatization of enterprises has risen and amounts to 36,000-38,000 manats ($7.37 -- $7.779) on the "black market," while a month ago this figure did not exceed 28,000-30,000 manats. Although this is not a huge increase in price, this current small change after a three-year stagnation period is remarkable. On the threshold of the elections, the privatization process has been greatly declining. An acceleration in privatization will most probably be observed no earlier than the beginning of 2004. The deadline for using the vouchers is the middle of 2004. In other words, it will be still possible to participate in the privatization of enterprises until this time.

The opposition newspaper "Baki-Kheber" writes that one of the state structures where corruption has become an everyday norm, beginning from average executives to the minister, is the Ministry of Taxes. The paper adds that the ministry has got caught up in corruption and as a result, tax collectors have become a tool in the ruling clan's hands and are drawn into political games.

In an interview with the independent newspaper "Uch Nogta," Mubariz Ahmedoglu, head of the Center for Political Innovations and Technologies, comments on how the presidential election campaign affects foreign investors. According to Mr. Ahmedoglu, if the tension continues and finally grows into a confrontation, investors could stop making investments for five or six years.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)