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Center for National and International Studies
The most popular topic on FB is the municipal election which took place on 23 December 2019 and preparations for the parliamentary elections in February 2020.
Some popular leaders —human rights defenders, civil activists, young politicians, such as Mehman Huseynov, Ziya Guliyev report on the results of their participation in the municipal elections, while others, such as Ilkin Rustamzadeh, Elchin Mammad, announce their running as candidates from various districts for the parliamentary elections.
FB users widely share updated information and monitoring the situation at the polling stations in the country at the day of municipal elections, commenting on the reports about carousels, ballot stuffing and other irregularities. The people share confused or aggressive answers of those, mainly female teachers who were part of the violation mechanisms at the polling stations to the questions, such as “ You just voted in that school, why did you enter this school also?”, or “ Khanum, why did you vote at 4 different polling stations?” The opposition journalist Nurlan Libre reported at 19:11 on the 23d December that he was detained illegally by the police at the polling station number 8. Taleh Khasmammadov writes, that “ Today my child is hungry and I myself in a poverty. You know why? Because of this falsification of elections. This is the biggest crime of all, they should never be amnestied.” People widely share the names of violators of law at the polling station in a naming and shaming campaign. The NIDA movement leader Ilkin Rustamzade shares the picture of the member of the electoral commission at the polling station and comments: “Observing this, I hardly abstained from curses..Please, share this photo of the 210 school director Kamalia Rasulova, who is the member of the polling state commission, so everyone would know her..” Statuskar with reference to the Toplum TV posts the photo of the policeman, informing that in order to put pressure on the observers the police was brought to the polling station 33 of the Kholgaragashli village of Neftechala region.
Giyas Ibrahimov, the former “graffiti prisoner” comments on the local elections: “ All these violations – carousel, ballot stuffing etc.- are possible only because the voter does not come to vote. Only at this local election one can find dozens of the polling stations, where not a single voter came to vote voluntarily. That’s what we should focus on in the parliamentary elections- to convince voters to come and vote. Every candidate during the campaign should visit in door to door process at least 1,000 people of his constituency and convince to vote. But the mass campaigning ( street rallies, public meetings) is even more important, and I believe our candiadtes will eb able to resist the pressure of the authorities. Because the only way the government can oppose this – is application of force. And the last, but not least thing is if we have 500 or 1,000 observers we could really press the positions of authorities in Baku districts”
Natig Cafarli of REAL also comments on the local elections. “ If the government had a smart policy, it would strengthen the institute of local self-governance. The current vertical is so strict, that whatever is happening at the local level- the sewage system breaks, the gas or water supply stops etc. in all cases the citizens should complain or write letters to the president himself and when it is not resolved it damages the image of the president. The system is absurd, and by attempt of the central government to concentrate all powers and responsibilities in its hands it makes a big mistake, as it creates expectations and when they are not realized, all the critique is directed to Baku. So they should be more interested in distribution of powers and responsibility to the regions. … However, YAP ( the ruling party) did not let local self- governance to develop- instead of institutionalization it became meaningless”
Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil comments: “What’s the difference between the pre-election situation in 2015 and now? I will tell you one: before the complaint on violations of law of the citizens could be submitted to the court by the lawyers who were not necessarily members of the Bar Association, while mow- by only those, who are members. The opportunities for the candidates to complain have narrowed down.”
People widely shared the results of the independent vote tabulation in favour Mehman Huseynov and the CEC non-inclusion him in the list of elected members of local bodies.
Altay Geyushov comments on local elections: “ As early as 7 th November this year I have written that Mehman Huseynov will win in local elections. Vafa also won. In spite of the pressure on the electorate and candidates, it happened at the expense of convincing people to come and vote. Whether the government will recognize their victories or not- does not change anything. Most importantly, they proved that it is possible to get out of the bulletin box by bringing ( convincing) people to vote. And by bringing substantial number of voters means that it will be even possible to defend those votes!”
The FB users continue to discuss arrests and firing of the heads of local executive powers, often pointing to the fact, that this is only upper part of the iceberg. Mubariz Mansimov in particular comments: “ My will is of course for this to continue.. But on the other hand this 10 or 100 thousands are just small, “pocket” money, so when will be the turn of those bureaucrats who steal bullions? I do not even mention their names, as everyone knows them. Will cameras be established in their offices? They arrange lavish parties with this stolen money abroad, spending fantastic sums. And this money are stolen from people and the state. Besides, they damage the country’s image internationally. The main target of the struggle which has begun should be these bureaucrats, who stand at the top of this corruption, and who should be revealed and punished. They should not be simply released from their positions, but to be punished and to bear responsibility before the people. In other words, I feel that the time is working not in their favour.”
The photo of the Turab Musayev from SOCAR Electrogas company in connection with the investigation of the murder of Daphne Galizia is widely shared in FB. Tofig Yagublu of Musavat, former political prisoner, comments: “ It looks like president Aliyev in turn himself is even under the bigger pressure than the head of local executive power from the side of the European “ National Intelligence Agency” ( humorous parallel with the Azerbaijani NIA by T.Y.). One of the subjects of investigation in the case of murdered investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia the executive of the SOCAR Electrogas Yorgen Fenek who is under arrest started to make confessions, including those related to the Azerbaijan’s representative in the company Turab Musayev. Thus both the leadership of the company and the “ruling family” are exposed”, concludes Yagublu.
Gubad Ibadoglu of ADR ( formerly of Musavat) reports about the meeting of the board of their movement and their main conclusion that by the end of this year the country is characterised by the crisis of governance. The board members also condemned the exclusion from the Bar Association and opening of the criminal case against the lawyer Shahla Gumbatova, as well as disciplinary measures against lawyers Elchin Sadigov and Neymet Karimli. The next day on the 21st ADR also held its 10th session of its Majlis which discussed the plans on transformation of the movement into the political party. It kept the 30 November decision of the board to boycott the parliamentary elections due to the unreformed election legislation and absence of the conditions in the country for the free and fair elections. They also discussed the current political and economic situation in the country and the region, recognition by the US Congress of the “Armenian genocide” and the policy of China towards Uygur minority. He also wrote on his timeline under the title of Roadmap of Regional Development of the country, that based on the municipal elections on the 23d December, the current government creates obstacles for the country’s development not only at the central, but also at the local level. He writes about importance of the local self-governance and elected municipalities for the overall development of the country, but notes, that the current election showed that the current government prefers weak, powerless, closer to the executive power offices than to people, and under full control of the ruling party organs of self-governance. This is missed opportunity for the authorities, he concludes. He also stresses an extremely low budget for municipalities, based on calculations of the annual budget of 36 mln manats for 1,606 municipalities, which makes their monthly funding only 1,868 manats. He on behalf of ADR movement suggests that the local executive powers in the region, which are planned to receive 157 mln manat next year should be eliminated and be replaced by self-governing bodies.
He stated, that Mehman Huseynov’s result in the local elections was its best barometer – even if he was not elected but the true result of voting is the best indicator of the elections.. “ It is OK, do not worry, Mehman” he continues, you should run for the parliament, as you are worth running there!”
The government, comments Ibadoglu further, devoted 65, 2 mln manats for the falsified elections. It is two and half times more than an annual budget of the local municipalities, and 4, 5 times more than the child benefits for children born in the next year.He also comments on the interview of Ilham Aliyev devoted to the relations of the country with the EU. He focuses on the president’s statement that Azerbaijan does not need WTO membership, while it has oil and gas resources. He explains this unwillingness by three reasons: Monopolization, Shadowization and Corruption.
Yadigar Sadyghli comments on results of local elections; “ These elections show, that young people with limited resources ran in a selected few districts and won. May be it make sense not to present it self as a big party and ran in every district and region, but instead focus on a few ones? By the way the authorities has understood it some time ago already, that’s why they never appoint by elections to the parliamentary seats which become free”. Academician and an activist of REAL party Erkin Gadirli discusses the interview of the president Aliyev on the 23d of December. He finds a few moments interesting. First, the ruling party will be defending its candidates. Secondly, the electoral system is majoritarian. Thirdly, this system is fair, as it ties the candidate to its constituency. Fourthly, people understand everything. This is what the president said. But here what does it mean. First, being in the list of ruling party does not mean to become winner. This is what I used to say, writes Gadirli, that the ruling party does not govern the country anymore, as it could not rejuvenate. YAP does not participate in the formation of the new elite. The president’s support for the majoritarian system means elimination of hopes for introduction of the proportional system. At the same time correct and consistent application of majoritarian system may lead to the two party system. Also, in this context the presidents idea that the country need a new opposition can be assessed from the capacity of rejuvenation of the ruling elite. If the president indeed wants a emergence of a new opposition- he should refuse of the party YAP”.
Yadigar Sadyghli comments: “ While collecting signatures to get registered as a candidate for the parliamentary elections , despite the current MP from my district is Rufat Guliyev I heard many times from the constituency that “we are fed up with Hadi Rajabli”. It is interesting because on the one hand it shows the all nation” love” to this MP, but on the other hand, shows that in this 16 years of being an MP, his constituency still does not know who is their MP”!
Seymur Hezi comments on the article of the pro-government journalist Eynulla Fatullayev: “ In his recent article Eynulla called me Gavroche and even asked: “ Why do you need democracy, is China on the wrong way?” Firstly, thank you for the comparing me to the symbol of French revolution. Secondly, you think China is on the right way? So Aliyev is too and is he planning to eliminate all his people, like they do with Uygurs now? So does Eynulla offer this way?”
Yadigar Sadyghli of Musavat writes on his timeline: “ Mazahir Panahov, the chair of the Central Election Commission, stated, that the number of the voters in the 10 mln wise country is 4 mln 972 thous. 356 which is about 50%. Compared to Turkey(73%) or Russia ( 75%) this number is very low. Then either the total population number is falsified, or the number of voters, or the both.”
He also comments on the environmental issues in Lenkoran and places the photo of Central Park of New York. “Some time ago, he comments, there was an old and huge park with 150 year old trees in the center of Lenkoran city, which people called “park of Sami”. But 10-12 years when the head of executive power was Suleyman Mikayilov ago the trees were cut. Old people, agsaggals were brought to TV to oppose us, who were resisting this decision, and even were saying that in the US and Europe parks are never built in the center of the city… Here is the photo of the Central Park in NY, where in 160 years 31 mayor has changed and none of them destroyed the park…”.
Ali Kerimli, leader of the Popular Front Party comments on the recent arrests of the local heads of executive power charged with corruption. He writes on his timeline, that “regime declared 100 thousands of small and medium business owners to be indebted to the state. Thousands state employees were racketeering the entrepreneurs taking away their earned income. We were saying that heads of executives and other bureaucrats were opening fake jobs and thus misappropriating millions allocated from the budget to the renovation, beautification etc. of the region. We were saying that these executives were passing part of this stolen money up to the hierarchy of power. But the spokespersons of the regime were responding that this is all lies. At last, recently arrests proved that we were right. However, people know very well, that this theft exists not only in Agstafa or Yevlakh but in all other regions. They also are aware that these people are not at the top of the pyramid. These local executives with the same discipline and preciseness they collected illegal money at the lower level, pass the substantial part of it to the upper echelons of power. Of course, whatever is the motivation, fight against corruption is a good thing. But people know very well, that the eradication of problem cannot be achieved by simply arresting some people. They remember that in 16 years of his rule president Ilham Aliyev has arrested corrupt bureaucrats few times, and not only those who steal in thousands, but in billions too, and not only local executives, but the ministers too. But nothing has changed in the country, quite opposite -the mechanism of corruption has perfectioned, the sums of misappropriation and bribery increased and it became even more centralized. But people know, that by the selective arrests Ilham Aliyev does not fight corruption, but actually gains time for the regime to adjust to the situation and survive. Our people has seen this film before, and that’s why to deceive it is more difficult than before”.
Gozel Bayramli, deputy chair of Popular Front Party, reports about the authorities’ preparation to imprison the young activist. “ Yesterday evening police without any explanation have taken from home the activist of the Sumgayit city branch of the Popular Front party Kazim Ezizli to the Sumgayit city court. Most probably they will arrest him under the charges of “resistance to the police”.. And such “ reforms” will go on…
Nurlan Libre and other share photo of the big poster hanging from the University windows “ University Education for Free”. Altay Geyushov confirms: “Sooner or later our youth will win over YAP”.
Taleh Khasmammadov reports that Central Election Commission wrote in as a victor not Mehman Husyenov, but the son of George the 30th Gafarov. “ This is not only accurate,-he comments with irony,- but also a historical event!”
Erkin Gadirli of REAL responds in what he called his “last response”, to the claims, that “the government already prepared a seat for him in the parliament”. He writes, that he always achieved successes by himself., and based it on the story of his years in the University. He is aware that there might be a high respect for him in the government circles, and there might be wishes to see him in various lists, with different motives, but he assures everyone, that he would never accept either occupying somebody’s place or getting there in the non-fair way.
FB users widely shared posts devoted to the 30th anniversary of the Azadlyg ( Freedom) newspaper. Ali Kerimli of Popular Front Party writes: “ Today is the anniversary of those who kept the spirit of free press and creation of Azadlyg -the first and the last independent newspaper in the last 99 years. I commemorate the founder and the first editor of the newspaper Najaf Najafzade, and congratulate all who participated in publishing this newspaper headed by the last editor Ganimad Zahid. Although the publication was stopped by the government three years ago, but it could not eliminate the newspaper. The bearer of freedom continue to be published in the internet, spread in the social networks, and in various platforms. Azadlyg will come back for sure! Both as a newspaper, and finally as a value so desired for by millions of our people!”
Ali Kerimli also considers that the fact of exclusion of the actual winner of local elections in his district Mehman Huseynov’s from the list of the winners of the local elections, as well as absence in this list of any other young independent candidate, is the best proof of the fake nature of so called reforms announced by the president Aliyev.
Tofig Yagublu of Musavat also warns the young people against euphoria after participation in the local elections, where the young candidates informally won the competition. He stated that these local elections were totally falsified.
Ilkin Rustamzade of NIDA movement in contrary comments: “Do not get discouraged by the formal victory of George over Mehman in local elections, the most important is not the result but the process. We know Mazahir ( Mazahir Panahov – the chair of the CEC) well – if he wants he can get Ramzes II or Ludovik XV from the ballot box, but this is not the excuse for losing one’s spirit. We have seen the worst times, and we have been through them! Be strong!”
The lawyer Aslan Ismayilov, who was recently criticised for his pro-government position, in contrary, characterized the local elections as an important stage in Azerbaijani history, and noticed, that even of Aliyev wanted to conduct free and fair elections, due to the intra-elite contradictions he would not be able to do that.But he called heroes the young people, who participated in these elections: Vafa Nagiyeva, Rufat Aliyev, Mehman Huseynov and Rabiyya Mammadova.
Natig Jafarli of REAL assessed the interview of president Ilham Aliyev as quite non-professional and suggests that either his team is not professional enough, or various interest groups influence his position. He analyses each major statement and thesis of the president: “ First, he said, that we cannot enter WTO because if we do it now, our industrialists and agricultural producers will face serious problems. The answer: Why then in 30 years while we were not the members of WTO we did not develop either relevant industrial or agricultural production? And vice versa- why those countries- who have been WTO members all these years actually have done this? Second thesis: It may lead to the filling of our country by the low quality products from the countries who have the objective to occupy our market” The answer: Did it happen to the countries who are members of the WTO? Are not these Azerbaijani citizens who make regular trips to the neighbouring states Georgia, Russia, Turkey etc. to buy products of higher quality than in the own country? Thirdly, the president said that non entrance to WTO is related to the demand that the country should sell gas to the local consumers by the same price as to foreign consumers. The answer: this is not true. The agreement’s provision against protectionism says this not in relations to the citizens, but some producers which is not very strict anyway and can be avoided. Conclusions: the president of course cannot make analysis of the issue, which means that his team should make more serious research and give him more qualified information. Besides, there are serious anti-WTO lobbyists in the country- big enterprises, which are owned by the bureaucrats, so WTO membership will damage their interests, while the membership is very beneficial for the population of the country”.