Will Azerbaijan hold another snap parliamentary election?
Azerbaijan is facing the same old dilemma: the upper classes cannot change the government, the lower classes do not want to live by the old rules. Change has already begun. What’s in store for the ruling party?
Lawyer Gunel Safarova, head of the Azerbaijani organization A Different Civil Movement sat down with JAMnews to analyze the political processes in Azerbaijan: the arrests of high-ranking officials and the scandalous statements of the former head of the presidential administration Ramiz Mehdiyev.
Safarova was interviewed by journalist Seymur Kazymov.
The dilemma from the top and bottom
— What’s happening with the ruling New Azerbaijan Party?
— The authorities are unable to change the way they rule, and the lower classes do not want to be governed by the old rules. This is the political picture in Azerbaijan at the moment.
The authorities understand this and must make changes and reforms.
The ruling YAP (New Azerbaijan Party) has lost its political weight. The proposal to [dissolve parliament] and hold early parliamentary elections came from this party. And during the elections [in February 2020] we expected the party to propose a new list of candidates, including younger ones.
But the party put the old guard on the ballot.
After that, the arrests began. The list of those arrested or dismissed includes the heads of the regional branches of the ruling party, the heads of the regional executive authorities, their deputies, and ministers.
All this demonstrates a regression within the ruling party. But at the same time, nothing has been announced to the public. The authorities have always had a communication problem, and this continues to this day.
— When did these significant changes occur?
— When people who were considered the face of the ruling party were fired from leadership positions. As a result, YAP’s political council is composed of retirees and people who were dismissed from their posts.
There are disagreements between the old and new teams. But so far the ruling party is not going to abandon its old style of management.
Everyone is equal under the law, without exception
— Ramiz Mehdiyev, who is the former head of the presidential administration, and is quite influential, organized his granddaughter’s wedding despite the ban during the pandemic. And when everyone was outraged, he made two statements and accused others who also held weddings. All this caused great indignation. How did this happen?
— I am a lawyer by profession. The laws are the same for everyone, without exception. Just because someone else has broken the law does not give you the right to break it too.
A man who has held a high position in the presidential administration since 1993 is trying to justify breaking the law. Among the guests at this wedding is the ombudsman.
Ramiz Mehdiyev seeks justice for himself. But why doesn’t he care, for example, that the courts are dependent on the executive structures, that judges are told what decisions to make?
The public condemns Ramiz Mehdiyev for many things, including for maintaining the status quo in the Karabakh conflict and for radical and tough steps taken by the authorities.
What’s in store for the ruling party?
— Will all these events help jumpstart reforms in the ruling party?
— If the party itself claims that it is not keeping pace with the reforms carried out by the president, then it must change. If it doesn’t, how long will it be able to hold out with its tarnished political reputation?
The president, his new team, and the vice president are all well aware that YAP does not improve their credibility.
The ruling party pulls all the administrative levers. If only they could hold elections at least once without taking advantage of their connections, they would see how many ruling party MPs would actually be elected to parliament.
The authorities are also aware that society is discontent.
Another parliamentary election?
— The new parliament remains on the sidelines of reforms, as is reported by international organizations, at least. There is talk that this parliament will also be dissolved. How realistic is that?
— At the moment, a change in command is taking place, a transfer of power from one group to another.
The president isn’t changing, his team is changing.
The current government and people who have different ways of thinking are dissatisfied with the existing parliament. I am sure that the president also does not want a parliament in which nothing has changed.
Azerbaijan could switch to a parliamentary system of government, something that has already happened in Georgia and Armenia. Azerbaijan needs such changes, as there must be a different approach to the management system.
If the administration does not agree to this, it will significantly shorten its time in power
The party registration process has already been simplified, and the authorities are starting a dialogue with the opposition. All this shows that preparations are underway for the transition to a proportional election system.
It is very likely that we will face yet another snap election and changes in the balance of power in 2021.
Full version of the interview in Azerbaijani