What is expected in Azerbaijan, a referendum or parliamentary elections?

The early presidential elections are behind us. President Ilham Aliyev took the oath of office. The Cabinet of Ministers has been approved. What other early elections are awaiting us?

According to the legislation, the next municipal elections are to be held in December this year. So far, this is the only thing that is known for sure.

But according to the Constitution, the term of office of the convocation of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan, elected in early elections, may be less than five years. In this case, the regular elections of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan are held on the first Sunday of November of the 5th year of the term of office of the convocation of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan, elected in early elections. That is, according to the Constitution, parliamentary elections are to be held in November this year. But this is doubtful. Because this November, the country is preparing for a big world event. to COP29. That is, the coincidence of the parliamentary elections with such a large event makes it necessary to hold parliamentary elections either ahead of schedule or to postpone them to a later date. But in order to postpone them, the Constitution will have to be changed. That is, to hold a referendum.

Recently, many experts and the media have also assured that there will be a referendum. So, "there was a smell of elections." But it may turn out to be early parliamentary elections.

The chairman of the Public Association "Education for Democracy" Mirali Huseynov answers questions from ASTNA on this topic.

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Question: Which elections are next?

Answer: If we approach the issue from the point of view of the law, then municipal elections should be held this year. In accordance with municipal legislation, the term of office of municipalities is 5 years. Given that the last municipal elections were held on December 23, 2019, it can be assumed that the next municipal elections will be held in December this year. Along with this, the holding parliamentary elections is not excluded. Thus, the holding of early parliamentary elections in February 2020 makes it necessary to hold these elections in November of this year. According to the requirements of Article 84 of the Constitution, elections to the Milli Majlis must be held every 5 years on the first Sunday in November. The term of office of each convocation of the Milli Majlis is 5 years. Since the term of office of the current National Assembly expires in February 2025, elections should be held in November this year. Along with this, the holding of a referendum is not excluded. Based on the practice of recent years or information leaked from the sidelines of the government, a referendum or parliamentary elections can be held at any time.

Question: There is an opinion that a referendum will be held first.  Experts justify this by the need to address a number of important issues. On what issues can a referendum be held?

Answer: First of all, I must say that I think it is more likely that a referendum will be held. The messages received for a long time from people close to the government about the need to make certain changes to the country's political system are not accidental. As for the issues that will be put to the referendum, it is expected that along with other issues there may be 3 important issues.  One of the main changes may be related to the abolition of the Cabinet of Ministers and the transfer of its powers to the presidential administration. The restoration of the proportional electoral system is also among the main expected changes. Another key change is probably related to local government. It is also expected that local executive authorities will be replaced by special presidential representations and some increase in the powers of municipalities.

Question: But some experts say that early parliamentary elections will be held in the near future...

Answer: Of course, this possibility is not excluded. After the appointment of the last snap presidential election, all probabilities seem possible. I don't think anyone expected the presidential election to be postponed about a year and a half ahead. But it happened, and everyone was left facing the fact. In an environment where there is no political accountability and transparency, there is no guarantee that this practice will not happen again. The fact that political processes take place outside the natural order and legality makes it difficult to predict. Therefore, any surprises are possible, and you need to be prepared for this.

Question: According to the Constitution, the term of office of the convocation of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan, elected in early elections, may be less than five years. In this case, regular elections to the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan are held on the first Sunday of November of the fifth year of the term of office of the convocation of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan, elected in early elections. And in November, Azerbaijan is preparing to host such a major event as COP29. There are two versions now - to hold parliamentary elections ahead of schedule. or to hold a referendum, changing the provision of the Constitution, to shift the permanent election time. For example, it should be held not in November, but on the first Sunday of February. What choice will be made?

Answer: It seems more reasonable to postpone the regular time of the parliamentary elections to February.  This can also be explained by the authorities' "love" for February. It is no coincidence that the last parliamentary and presidential elections were held in February.  Given the impact of the winter season on electoral practice, the authorities will probably be interested in formalizing this event.

Question: Municipal elections are expected by the end of the year. So far, only this is known for sure. Is something else possible in these municipal elections or in the powers of municipalities?

Answer: There is no reason to think about any changes in the municipal elections. The elections will be conducted as they have been conducted so far. As for the powers of municipalities, this may be possible in the context of the expected reforms of local government. The possibility of the dissolution of local Executive Authorities suggests that the powers of municipalities will also be expanded.  Although I do not believe in granting very broad powers, nevertheless, even granting a certain amount of powers would be a positive development.

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