Political system of Azerbaijan successfully passes the first test during elections

Ismail Agakishiyev and Sergey Rekeda
Ismail Agakishiyev and Sergey Rekeda

Parliamentary elections were held in Azerbaijan yesterday. Thousands of local and 500 international observers from 40 organizations followed them. Many of them have already presented a positive assessment of the elections to the parliament, during which 767 candidates were competing for 125 places. According to the preliminary data of the CEC, 55.7% of citizens voted, and the elections were recognized as valid. The head of the Center of Caucasus Studies under the RSUH, Associate Professor of MSU History Department Ismail Agakishiyev, and the Director General of the MSU IAC, Sergey Rekeda, predicted the post-election processes in Azerbaijan.

“If we compare the parliamentary elections in 2010 and 2015, two aspects are obvious. First of all, the international atmosphere in which the election campaign took place was much more complicated and contradictory than it was five years ago. The second factor is that the internal stability of the Azerbaijani political system is going through a serious challenge, and it has managed to succeed in this. There were no such foreign risks for any of post-Soviet republics in 2010. I mean the economic situation and the security sphere. Thus, the question is not only about who wins the elections or which deputies take parliamentary mandates, but also about the agenda which the MPs of the new parliament will work with, what political and economic issues will be in the focus of the Azerbaijani elite’s attention in the next 5-7 years. In fact, we have received a clear answer to the question. It is the presidential program – the struggle against corruption, development of the non-oil sector, attraction of foreign investment, achievement of the necessary level of transparency in the work of officials and bureaucrats,” Sergey Rekeda believes.

Ismail Agakishiyev thinks that the question about the foreign context is important for the elections: “Azerbaijan takes the most important position in regional politics, it is trying to provide an independent foreign policy. And elections are always a stress for post-Soviet societies. And the West is testing Baku – statements by MPs of the European parliament, heavy criticism by American senators, urges and resolutions. These days a critical situation is developing in Moldova, a clash between society and the authorities. And what? Silence! All the attention is focused on the elections in Azerbaijan. The selectivity of tactics and double standards are obvious. As a result, representatives of the OSCE didn’t come to observe the elections, the PACE sent 30 observers. At the same time, more than 490 international observers followed the elections, 150 of them were from the CIS. These are decent figues.”

According to Sergey Rekeda, “the point is not that double standards have turned into an essence of European policy in the South Caucasus. The problem is that statements and declarations by European MPs are forming an image of an alternative in Azerbaijani politics, i.e. the local opposition. But the political situation in the country shows that there is no real opposition in the country. This fact was clear in the last presidential elections. And this time the intellectual poverty of the opponents of the regime has been hightlighted to the maximum. The situation was the usual one: some of the opposition refused to participate in the elections; others presented a standard set of demands to the authorities – without any clear answer to the question: what must be done for this? How should they move toward democracy and prosperity by other means and methods? You won’t find an answer to this question in any program by the opposition; there are only personal criticisms of the President, ministers and the authorities in general. This can work once or twice, but we read one and the same program every election campaign – the authorities are unfair. And what’s next? No reply.”

At the same time, Ismail Agakishiyev says that the problem of renewal of the parliament is included on the agenda: “We can agree with experts who have stated the need for a change of MPs long before the elections. 64 of the 117 candidates from the ruling party participated in the elections for the first time. They are not only younger, but also more professional than the previous parliament. It is required that new MPs will add new energy and a systemic approach to the work of the legislative power. Whether the forecasts will come true, time will tell, but a hope that there will be changes in Azerbaijani society. The society is expecting reforms, many of which have been outlined in the latest speech by President Ilham Aliyev.”

“The President set a whole bloc of tasks before the new parliament – continuation of institutional reforms in social policy; deepening of reforms in the management sphere; strengthening of the struggle against corruption,” Sergey Rekeda reminds. “This is a task not only for the executive power, but also for the parliament. Therefore, the political system of Azerbaijan has successfully passed the first test during elections. Now it is necessary to accomplish the course toward reforms. There is no doubt that further development of friendly relations with Russia plays an important role in the implementation of the course.”

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