Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice refuses to re-register major opposition parties
Law “On political parties”
The Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan refused to re-register opposition parties. If within 30 days these parties do not complete the list of their members to 5,000 people, they will be forced to dissolve the organization. Re-registration of parties is carried out in accordance with the new law “On Political Parties” that has come into force, which states that for state registration of a party, the number of its members must be at least 5,000 people. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the OSCE/ODIHR gave a negative expert opinion of this document.
Expert Nasimi Mammadli criticizes this law and the process of re-registration of parties. “In such an undemocratic country as Azerbaijan, it is difficult for five thousand people to join the party. Especially if we take into account how negative the attitude of the authorities towards opposition-minded political organizations,” he said.
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“We can gather all the indicated people in front of the Ministry of Justice”
Today, July 20, the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan refused the appeal of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) for re-registration. This was announced by the chairman of the PFPA Ali Karimli.
According to him, the party submitted a list of 5315 members of the organization to the Ministry of Justice. At the same time, the response from the Ministry of Justice states that 5138 people were indicated in the list of the party.
“Further, the Ministry of Justice indicates that the alleged data on 2497 people are incorrectly indicated, and therefore clarifications must be made,” Karimli said.
In addition, according to him, the letter from the Ministry of Justice indicates that 119 people from the PFPA list are allegedly members of other parties, and 59 persons are listed twice.
Further, the Ministry of Justice claims that 609 people did not turn out to be members of the PFPA at all.
“All these remarks are absolutely not convincing and are made up for political reasons. The “shortcomings” indicated by the Ministry of Justice do not have a specific content and are abstract,” Karimli said.
He believes that the Ministry of Justice should clarify the identified errors and shortcomings and specifically indicate them.
“We have the right to know which of the persons indicated by us are members of other parties, who personally told the Ministry of Justice that they are not a member of the PFPA, whose names were repeated in the list,” the PFPA leader continued.
According to him, the PFPA will ask the ministry for official, detailed and substantiated clarifications on these issues.
“We are ready to refute all far-fetched pretexts. If they want, we can collect copies of ID cards and submit them to the Ministry of Justice. If necessary, we can collect all the persons indicated on the list in front of the Ministry of Justice, ”Karimli said.
He said that the PFPA will use all legal means to restore the party’s rights.
“When legal ways are exhausted, we will use political means.
We will not accept the intentions of the authorities to destroy the real opposition and create a one-party system,” said Karimli.
Musavat will investigate the shortcomings
Earlier, the Ministry of Justice, for similar reasons, returned the documents of the Republican Alternative and Musavat parties.
“In a letter sent to the party, it is noted that out of the information submitted to the Ministry of Justice about 5212 members of our party, in relation to 2766 the information turned out to be “inaccurate”, and therefore we must clarify. It is also alleged that 250 people answered phone calls from the Ministry of Justice that they were not members of the party. In relation to 11 persons, the information was allegedly indicated again,” said the chairman of the Musavat party, Arif Hajily.
He also stated that the party would look into what shortcomings were identified by the Ministry of Justice.
“Republican Alternative” will not be dissolved”
On July 19, the Ministry of Justice sent a second letter to the REAL (Republican Alternative) party in connection with the verification of its registry documents.
In it, the department gave explanations for each member of the party, Ilgar Mammadov, chairman of REAL, said at a press conference today (July 20).
According to him, the party studied this information and it turned out that in relation to 2020 party members, about whom the Ministry of Justice did not find information in the state register of the population, mistakes were made in “letters and numbers.”
“In this situation, there are shortcomings on both sides. The state system itself creates a confusing situation,” Mammadov said.
The letter also states that during the verification during phone calls, 986 people from the REAL list did not confirm their membership in the party.
“This is an absolutely ridiculous procedure that contradicts democratic foundations,” Mammadov continued.
According to him, the party interviewed several people indicated in the letter from the Ministry of Justice, and they said that they had not received a call from the department at all.
And some party members reported that they received calls from the Ministry of Justice, but they confirmed that they were members of the party, Mammadov further noted.
He stressed that despite the critical attitude of REAL to the new law on political parties, the organization is ready for constructive cooperation with the Ministry of Justice.
He also said that since today REAL has started an active campaign to admit new members to the party.
At the same time, Mammadov noted that discussions are being held in the party regarding further actions in the event of the liquidation of the state registration of REAL.
“However, the REAL party will definitely not be dissolved,” Mammadov said.
“Political decisions of the authorities will be decisive”
On July 18, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Justice announced that after a new law requiring party membership of at least 5,000 people came into force, 31 parties declared self-liquidation.
The other 28 parties submitted documents for re-registration.
The Ministry of Justice’s statement on the “voluntary” self-liquidation of 31 political parties in Azerbaijan after the adoption of the new law raises serious doubts, political scientist Nasimi Mammadli believes.
“Such a statement could be considered sincere if Azerbaijan had ample opportunities for the activities of political parties, political pluralism, freedom of assembly, and there were no problems related to the right to association,” he said.
According to him, in conditions when political freedoms practically do not exist in the country, it is not necessary to talk about some kind of “voluntary” decisions of the parties.
As for the future fate of 28 political parties, which nevertheless applied to the Ministry of Justice for re-registration, the political scientist expressed the opinion that “in this matter, the political decisions of the authorities, and not the norms and requirements of the legislation, will be decisive.”
He criticized the Ministry of Justice’s verification of information about party members by phone. This technique is very controversial from the point of view of personal data protection, the expert emphasized.
“There must be other methods of identifying members. Just linking to a phone call will have legal implications going forward. Dissenting parties will apply to the courts, and the European Court of Human Rights, recognizing the violation of rights, will impose fines on the government. From this point of view, it would be more reliable if the verification of participants were different or rather more transparent. In any case, these checks could be carried out with the participation of civil society, public councils under ministries and their proxies.
On the other hand, I think that in such an undemocratic country as Azerbaijan, it is difficult for five thousand people to join the party. Especially if we take into account how negative the attitude of the authorities towards opposition-minded political organizations. The truth is that even members of opposition political parties are afraid to reveal their political affiliation. Because it leads to persecution, job loss and pressure on relatives. Therefore, I think that the method chosen by the Ministry of Justice has created a difficult situation for political parties, including opposition ones,” Mammadli said.
The law came into force despite the negative conclusion of the Venice Commission
On January 11, 2023, President Ilham Aliyev approved the Law on Political Parties, according to which a political party in Azerbaijan must be established by at least 50 fully able-bodied citizens. For state registration of a party, the number of its members must be at least 5,000 people. Moreover, if the number of party members during the period of its activity drops below 4,500, then this is the basis for the liquidation of its state registration.
According to the law, one person can be a member of only one party and foreigners and stateless persons cannot be members of political parties in Azerbaijan.
It should be noted that the new law on parties has drawn criticism from many opposition political parties. They believe that the new law is aimed at restricting political activity and eliminating opposition parties. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the OSCE/ODIHR also gave a negative expert opinion to this document.