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Center for National and International Studies
The long-serving MP: “Do not get me involved in politics…”
FB posts continue to reflect the anxieties of the community and to highlight inconsistencies and irregularities on the part of the authorities. Postwar and pandemic vulnerability is severely challenged by actions and inactions deemed unjust, inappropriate or at odds with the defining nature of parliamentary work. Compassion is seen to override corruption, with citizens themselves finding ways to take care of those at the mercy of negligent politicians. Internal issues take precedence over any response to global events that might otherwise spark a keener interest.
Post-war situation. The e-media and FB community continue to be concerned with Russia’s policy and plans in regard to Karabagh and the region, discuss possible sanctions against Russia, and relations between the US and Europe. FB users are alarmed by the reports of national e-media with reference on Sputnik Armenia to the fact that an Azerbaijani official met with the leader of the Karabagh Armenians, Arayik Harutyunian, and the head of the State Security Service of Armenia, Armen Abazian, with the mediation of the commander of the Russian peacekeeping force Rustam Muradov to discuss humanitarian issues. They recall that the Azerbaijan authorities opened a criminal case against Harutyunian. The FB community also shares controversial reports about the monument to the military leader of the Armenians of early 20th century Garegin Njde in Khojavend, Upper Karabagh. According to some sources, that monument was dismantled by the local Armenians due to his responsibility for the numerous deaths of Azerbaijani civilians in the South Caucasus. They also quote the speech of the Deputy Minister of Culture of Armenia, who allegedly criticized the commemoration of the ideology and life of Njde. The activists also continue to decry the double reduction of the salaries of military personnel serving in Karabakh, as well as attract attention to the alarming conditions of the individual cases of war heroes. Ali Karimli calls for support and is aiming to collect 25,000 manats for the treatment of the war hero Alizade Agshin, who has been very ill for three months with failure of both kidneys – yet was refused state assistance under some formal excuse. Azadyg newspaper reports the inadequate title of degree of handicap of war hero Murad Hasanov, who lost his leg at the front.
Social issues. The FB community discusses the double cut of the salaries of the troops stationed in Karabagh. Ali Karimli of PFP calls his followers to stand up for the soldiers, and if there is no money in the budget to cancel costly and corrupt projects. FB users share and comment on the photo of an old woman involved in dangerous work sweeping the busy streets and which says: “This is the situation of women in our country”, while the commentator says:” Not just the women, but the whole country’s”. MP Fazil Mustafa spoke in the parliament about the pressure of social issues caused by the quarantine and that the government cannot render aid to small business owners, so argues that because of the dire situation, the shops should be open. He reminds the MPs that the cost of construction materials has been raised by 30-40%. Gubad Ibadoglu analyses the decline of population growth in Azerbaijan and Armenia. He argues that in Azerbaijan this decline is primarily related to the cancellation of benefits since 2006, unemployment and the worsening of social protection in the country, while in the Armenia – the hidden real statistics of the war dead, which might be at least two times higher – near to 6,352 versus the 2,966 officially reported. FB users write with indignation about the mess with the instructions of wearing masks, when police and TABIB are working at odds with each other, police fining people for not wearing masks in the streets, while the state agency is refuting the prohibition. “In all cases”, comments a reader, “the victim is an ordinary citizen”.
Economy and state companies. Economic experts discuss the NRGI report that SOCAR represents significant risks for the economy of the country. The report stated that state oil companies, whose debt is no less than 20% of the state’s revenues, create high risks for the economy. The leaders on this indicator are the companies of Angola, Surinam, Azerbaijan and Mexico. It also predicts that in the coming decade the companies of Mozambique and Azerbaijan will face the worst situation. Ibadoglu comments that according to foreign analysts the state oil company will sink the state along with itself.
Governance, corruption. The FB community continues to ridicule the request to the journalists by Siyavush Novruzov, member of the Political Council of the ruling party YAP, MP for 25 years: “Do not involve me in politics”. G. Hajibeyli comments that if they refuse to occupy themselves with politics in parliament, maybe they had better start farming like Ziya Mammadov, ex-minister of transport? The PFP activist labels it the indication that politics has turned into a one of the types of a criminal activity in the country. Another suggests that when the authorities spend millions on useless projects but refuse to give a couple of hundred manats to the families of war martyrs, this is not only the financial robbery, but the expression of a serious moral crisis. FB users also continue to discuss the response of the ex-deputy premier Abid Sharifov to the information about his grandson owning the hotel in Shaki. He said that “this is just a 3-storey building, more a hostel, rather than a hotel”. The economists comment that this means that he does not consider this a big deal, as there are greater “thieves” in the country. They decry this way of thinking of a state person, who was in position for 23 years. The journalist in exile, Ganimat Zahid, shares a satellite photo, of the village Fatmayi, near Baku, with the location of several large illegal properties of the bureaucrats, such as the executive of Sumgayit city, Zakir Farajov, the head of executive office of Absheron region, Irada Gulmammadova, the ex-minister of culture Abulfaz Garayev, etc. People comment that those who ate cheap sausages in the Soviet times cannot stop illegal enrichment now. Habib Muntazir reports the firing of the head of the Khachmas regional department of the Ministry of Culture, Nazim Agayev, because of the “antivrus” program misappropriation. It appeared that to install these programs it was allocated 10,426 manat, although the real price of antivirus and similar programs is no more than 100-150 manats per year. The other activist stresses the necessity to calculate the damage of the corruption to the country. Only the chair of the International Bank Jangir Hajiyev was reported to take out 9b out of the country. He argues that this sum is probably enormous, taking into account the nature of the system and that of the oligarch-ministers, and even smaller bureaucrats. On top of it, this money is not spent on start-ups, or innovative and intellectual products, but on marble, stone, swimming pools, and walls. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev explains that in order to compensate for this corruption, people are fined under all sorts of excuses – by highway police, by the city transport agency, by community police for not wearing masks, or by the tax agency. But the corruption goes parallel – costly buildings are constructed and fantastic tenders are distributed. And after that, they collect the aid for the families of war heroes and funds for restoration of the liberated territories from people by taking fees from the employees, or cutting twice the salaries of the troops, instead of paying out of the budget. FB users share reports of property registered in Prague in 2008 which belongs to the deputy Minister of Communication and High Technologies, Abdullayev Ali, and the former head of the department of the Ministry of the Economic Development (2001-11) Khajar Najafova, who is also the owner of a few other enterprises. The activists ridicule the recent criticism by the Minister of Economy Mikail Jabbarov of the shortcomings and problems of the economy. B. Hajiyev comments with irony that the criticism of Ali Karimli of the PFP, who has been all these 17 years in power is fully justified and only thanks to President Aliyev who replaced him last year and appointed M. Jabbarov things are going to improve. The platform BIZ (We) has devoted its programme to the issue of misappropriation of state funds via Agro-parks, to the damage and difficulties faced by agriculture and farmers, to subsidy corruption, etc.
State support for the political parties and upcoming Parliamentary elections. The government announced allocation of 4m manats to the ruling and a few other parliamentary opposition parties, among them the National Front Party (Razi Nurullayev), Republican Alternative (Ilgar Mammadov), Great Revival Party (Fazil Mustafa), the Unity Party (Tahir Karimli), Motherland Party (Sabir Rustamkhanli), Azerbaijan Democratic Enlightenment Party (Elshan Musayev), the Azerbaijan Democratic Reforms Party (Asim Mollazade), and the United Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (Gudret Hasanguliyev). The activists comment on the “state aid to political parties” decision of the government. “They simply put money in the pockets of the leaders of these parties and call it aid to the parties” says Fuad Gahramanli of PFP – at least they could call it more accurately the Party of Asim (Mollazade – L.A.) or the Party of Razi, etc. The activist Azer Gasimli in his interview to Osmangizi TV argues that in the absence of opposition factions and debates, there are no politicians in the current Parliament and it is incapable of fulfilling its functions, considering that there is no Parliament in the country as an institution. He argues that parties can obtain a mandate only if sanctioned by the president, so none of the parties who got support from the state can be called ‘opposition’. This system is copied from Russia, when parties getting integrated into the system (such as those of Zyuganov, Mironov, or Zhrinovsky) stop acting like a true opposition. Gasimli considers that the authorities try to bring new actors to the stage just to win time. Natig Jafarli responded to the criticism by saying that they (REAL) received the money not from the government but from the state and people and expressed his gratitude to the FB community. He assured that this money is planned to be spent on the people’s needs – such as research and surveys on situation in the country.
Inflated indicators of gas meters. The economist Samir Aliyev informs that the family received the first gas bill after Azerigaz changed the consumer meters to the old-type mechanical ones. The bill was inflated, as if this is not the family, but instead a 24-hours operational bakery. He mentions that people have been complaining in the social networks about the inflated indicators for a long time already. He lists the following violation of the rights of consumers by Azerigaz company: 1) the customers were not informed about replacement of the meters, so it was done in violation of article 13.9 of the Law on Gas Consumption in the country 2) the replacement is done without participation of the customers and without any document confirming their participation and agreement. 3) the company writes up the debt on the new meters arbitrarily, etc. He concludes that the company has turned these types of violations into a routine. He explains that the decision of the Council on Tariffs to delay the increase of the gas price is compensated at the expense of falsifying the debts of its customers. The consumers’ rights are violated because Azerigaz is a monopolist in its sphere. The officials simply observe the situation.
Human rights. Amnesty International issued a statement in support of Gultakin Hajibeyli of the National Council of Democratic Forces, who by the decision of the court will be deprived of her apartment, where she lives with her son, unless she pays a total sum of 85,000 manat. The statement says that the Azerbaijani government should stop political repression against Hajibeyli and let her freely perform her critical activities. FB users share a report about the court hearing planned for 23rd February on the case of 37 political prisoners, arrested last year for participation in the Karabagh rally. The activists compare hard punishment for needy people who steal their neighbor’s chickens and the failure to open a criminal case against the bureaucrats, complicit in the corrupt $518m contract to build a short tunnel. The human rights defenders raise the issue of the prisoners on the Ter-ter case. Rasul Jafarov reports the appeal directed to the president to give amnesty to the prisoners. Khadija Ismayil suggests that the conduct of investigation in this case was directed not to the disclosing the substance and culprits but to cover them. The activists also post a photo of the blogger in exile in Germany Orkhan Agayev with severe bruises on his face, who was attacked and beaten up by a group of unidentified people in the street.
Scandal with Ramiz Mehdiyev stirs up. The FB community discusses the reasons behind the recent news that ex-head of the Presidential Administration, currently President of the Academy of Sciences, Ramiz Mehdiyev, will sue 15 MPs for allegedly falsely blaming him for treason. This is despite his knowledge that nobody would dare say anything like that without being sanctioned by the President. Fuad Gahramanli, however, suggests a different game behind the scenario and gives two possible reasons for this. He considers that the recent statement by one of the MPs about the preparation of the Coup d’Etat aimed at pressure on the fired oligarchs/ministers to get their “financial contribution” also targeted Ramiz Mehdiyev, as he is considered the “boss” of the old guard and in addition related to Moscow. This way the authorities manage to imitate the internal struggle with the “old guard”. The other purpose is the distraction of the people’s anger against the government towards Ramiz Mehdiyev, whose public reputation is negative; in both cases he argues the conflict is simply a performance.
Relations with Iran. Meydan TV reports that MP Agil Abbas, in his speech about the drug traffickers from Iran, in which he suggests not returning the drug dealers in case of repeated crime, but to try addressing this in Azerbaijan, asks not to be reprimanded for mentioning Iran. The speaker Sahiba Garibova replied that nobody was reprimanded for this in parliament.