Center for National and International Studies
Altay Goyushov: Any political force that can win the favor of the middle class will become the next potential agent of change, regardless of whether it is officially registered or not…
(Lack of ) Human Rights and Freedoms
The chairman of the commission set to investigate the situation in Soyudlu, Mukhtar Babayev, revealed that the relevant documents concerning the reservoir filled with cyanide waste in Soyudli were not properly approved by the relevant institutions. He also mentioned that the construction of the second lake had not received official approval. Surprisingly, the company’s official website indicated that government permission had been granted for the construction of the new artificial lake for toxic waste.
Although production at the mine was halted for several days, cyanide continued to flow into the lake, causing concern among the local residents. However, according to the residents, since yesterday, the flow of cyanide has been stopped, and authorities have begun pouring certain substances onto the lake. Some locals suggest that the action may be an attempt to either minimize the trace or the impact of the cyanide. There are speculations that international environmental organizations could be advocating for an environmental inspection of the area to address the situation properly.
Governance and Corruption
The Ministry of Justice refused to register the opposition parties, including the major opposition party Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP). In response to the parties’ applications, the Ministry cited that none of them were able to provide evidence of having at least 5 thousand members, the minimum number required by law for official registration. Together with APFP, Musavat and the Real Party also faced rejection. However, the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) successfully obtained registration, as it asserted to have around 800 thousand members, a claim accepted by the Ministry without any objections.
Over the past few weeks, the Ministry made phone calls to verify the authenticity of the opposition party members, a move that has been criticized by the parties as unlawful.
The Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, known as one of the largest opposition political organizations, received an unfavorable response from the Ministry of Justice on July 19 addressed to the party, stating that among the 5,138 members listed in the register, the information (name, surname, patronymic, date of birth) of 2,497 individuals was inaccurately provided and should be clarified by the party. In response to the Ministry’s letter, Ali Karimli, Chairman of the Party, said that it would be better for the Ministry of Justice to set a specific date and time for the party to assemble with 5,000 members in front of the Ministry, stating, “let them see us and count us if they want.”
Karimli asserted that the Ministry of Justice should be transparent and provide precise information regarding any discrepancies or omissions it identified in the APFP’s member register. “We have the right to know which of the party members included in the register were considered members of other parties, who specifically told the Ministry of Justice that they were not members of the APFP, and which party members’ names were repeated in the register. Of course, we will send a letter to the Ministry of Justice and ask for a detailed and reasoned answer. We are ready to eliminate any excuse. They want us to collect copies of the ID cards of the party members and present them to the Ministry. Let’s gather in front of the Ministry. We will use all legal means. Even when the legal channels are blocked, there are political avenues for us to utilize. We will not reconcile with the government’s policy of destroying the real opposition and creating a one-party system.” Karimli strongly affirmed that they would not accept the government’s approach of undermining genuine opposition and establishing a one-party system. The party remains resolute in its commitment to confront these challenges and fight for their rights. He took to Facebook to address the issue: “The authorities have already announced their intention. They want to cancel the registration of the APFP with false claims. It is clear that the new reactionary law “On Political Parties,” condemned by the whole world, was adopted with the intention of destroying the real opposition in the country. They cannot tolerate the presence of organized opposition in the country. They want no organized force to oppose their one-man rule, their pyramid of corruption, and violence.
Karimli further added that despite their repeated and urgent appeals, the Baku city executive refused to permit the session of the Supreme Assembly of the Party to proceed. The session was crucial to electing the leadership of the party’s Supreme Assembly and the Presidium of the Party.
Gubad Ibadoghlu, Chairperson of the ADRP, emphasized that the current rejection of registration should serve as a rallying point for all opposition political parties to unite and confront the ruling regime together. He recounted how, as soon as the initial version of the new “Law on Political Parties” surfaced on September 14 of the previous year, ADR organized a discussion with representatives of opposition parties and experts at the “Law” publishing house. “During this gathering, ADR presented its position on the draft law to all participants. Regrettably, only the representative of the APFP, whose documents had been returned by the Ministry of Justice, attended the discussion. Other parties declined to participate in the ADR event.” Ibadoghlu expressed that had the opposition parties united and collectively fought against the regressive law, they might have avoided the unfortunate consequences they are now facing individually. He also voiced his concerns about the Ministry of Justice’s biased decisions regarding Musavat and REAL, suggesting that there is a need to stand together and fight, even if it’s coming a bit late. He believes that the people desire such unity, and even elements within the government share the sentiment, evident by the repeated denial of registration for ADR, APCP, Musavat, and REAL. In conclusion, Gubad Ibadoghlu calls for a unified effort and solidarity among opposition parties to tackle the challenges they are currently facing together.
Fuad Gahramanli, a member of the APFP, pointed out that the Ministry of Justice’s response goes beyond just affecting political parties. Gahramanli argued that it extends to the entire society and raises concerns about the direction Azerbaijan is heading, drawing a parallel to Turkmenistan. “The issue we face is not solely about the list of party members; it serves as a broader warning to the society about the potential transformation of Azerbaijan into a state resembling Turkmenistan. As a society, we must collectively decide whether we agree with such a trajectory for our country or not.”
Following the rejection from the Ministry of Justice, Natig Jafarli, a member of the REAL party, expressed his thoughts on the party’s failure to obtain official registration, deeming it both “illegal and illogical” to scrutinize each individual party member. “It is so illogical and illegal for the Ministry of Justice to demand that party members provide personal information, especially in such a manner. The constitution allows anyone to become a party member, but there is no law that mandates owning a phone. According to the Ministry’s so-called ‘logic,’ if someone does not use a phone, they are disqualified from being a party member. This is a clear violation of the law. How can any individual verify that the caller is genuinely from the Ministry of Justice? There is no obligation for them to respond to such inquiries. Maybe it was someone else trying to extract personal information from them over the phone.”
Altay Goyushov, the Director of the Baku Research Institute, expressed his viewpoint on the rejection of party registrations, emphasizing that the existing authoritarian government will remain unchallenged unless a political party emerges that appeals to the middle class. Goyushov: “Whether they are registered or not, it doesn’t matter. ReAl was an institution that could bring radical change to this country. However, its decision to become a Party marked a turning point for the organization, leading to its own downfall. I say radical change because the very existence of REAL prompted the government to make many minor cosmetic changes. ReAl was an institution of great concern to this government. During the period between 1998 and 2005, another institution that could bring these radical changes in Azerbaijan was the Musavat Party. In 2003, this hope died to a large extent, but it continued with inertia until 2005 before fading away. The fact is that today there is no longer any force that can effectively appeal to and attract the middle class, thereby becoming an agent of change. Many representatives of this class, dissatisfied with their current circumstances, opt to move abroad to seek better professional opportunities rather than actively engaging in politics—a logical choice given the prevailing conditions. Abroad, some either stay away from politics altogether, while others, driven by mercantilism or nationalism, resort to collaborating with the dictatorship’s embassies. The government returns the latter to a place where they moved, either by inviting them to symposiums or by taking them to Shusha to attend its propaganda events. However, no one has yet abolished the middle class or its characteristic envy and loathing of the elite. That is, the conditions are in place. Any political force that can win the favor of this class will become the next potential agent of change, regardless of whether it is officially registered or not. The holy place never remains unoccupied. The collapse of authoritarianism is inevitable.”
Erkin Gadirli, a member of the Political Committee of the REAL Party, recently disclosed that Azerbaijan is scheduled to hold four elections within the upcoming year and a half (from 2023 to 2025). According to Gadirli, the sequence of elections includes a referendum in the fall of 2023, Milli Majlis elections in November of the following year, municipal elections in December, and presidential elections in April 2025. Gadirli said that discussions about the referendum have been ongoing for a while, driven by a fundamental reason—the existing system has become outdated, incurring higher administrative costs and increased political risks while its efficiency has declined. According to Erkin Gadirli, the current system is ill-suited for the future after the victory in the Patriotic War. Last month the Milli Majlis approved a series of changes to the state budget, which includes a substantial 50 percent increase in election expenditures for the remaining part of 2023. This significant financial boost serves as a strong indication that the referendum is indeed likely to take place this year. Gadirli emphasized that such a considerable allocation of funds would not happen without a purpose, suggesting that the referendum is imminent.
July 21, 2023