Azerbaijan: from liberal democracy to authoritarianism and...

Azerbaijan, a Caspian country rich in oil and gas is experiencing a severe economic crisis, which has become unexpected for both the ruling authoritarian regime and for society, which over the past ten years deceptively reveled relative increase in wealth, which exclusively relied on the flow of petrodollars caused by the fivefold increase in oil production and prices for black gold.

All are shocked and wonder what actually happened, and what is the reason for the metamorphosis, when material well-being is disappearing. Over the past two years of the crisis the confused government has not taken any real steps to resolve the critical situation.

The crisis caught Azerbaijan as a country with an authoritarian form of government, and it is characteristic that similar authoritarian countries - Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and others are experiencing the crises of the same power. While in the countries of the liberal-democratic camp there is the highest resistance to the global economic turmoil. They are experiencing the negative impact of the global trend, but still retain the dynamic stability of the economy and welfare. It shows the connection between the laws of the economy and the state of the country's form of government.


In 2015, the Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA), along with the Cato Institute (USA), Fraser Institute (Canada), the Liberal Institute of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (Germany) and the Institute for Visio (Slovenia) first published a report on the measurement of the index of human freedom.

In the Index of human freedom (IHF), the first attempt to evaluate the integral individual freedom, the measurement of which is seriously advanced in recent decades. ICHS includes 76 indicators of personal, civil and economic freedoms, reflecting the ten spheres of human activity:

- The rule of law,

- Security,

- Freedom of movement,

- The freedom of religious activities,

- Freedom of association,

- Freedom of expression,

- The size of the state,

- The quality of the legal system and protection of property rights,

- Access to sound money,

- Freedom of international trade,

- Regulation of business, labor and credit.

Thus, was revealed the following regularity, the higher the implementation of the requirements of these areas, the higher is the economic and social well-being. The leaders were mainly the country's liberal democracy, such as Hong Kong, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Canada and others. Regularity was revealed in these countries, individual freedom index is higher than the index of economic freedom.

Table of ranking the countries over 2012 year shows that the level of economic development and well-being is reduced by lowering the index of individual freedom. For example, in Azerbaijan, which ranks the 126th among 152 countries, the index of personal freedom (5.79) was lower than the index of economic freedom, although it is not high (6.79). Then come Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Iran closes the ranking with the lowest levels of personal freedom. Over the past four years, the situation with the freedom of a person in Azerbaijan has deteriorated significantly as a result of mass arrests of dissidents, the introduction of legislative restrictions on freedom of expression, strengthen police control over society.

Index of human freedom and its two main components, in 2012

Rank JurisdictionIndex of human freedomIndex of private freedomIndex of economic freedom
1Hong Kong9,049,098,98
5New Zealand8,618,978,25
9Great Britain8,519,227,81
141Saudi Arabia5,373,896,84

It should be noted that the period of growth of oil revenues in Azerbaijan was characterized by a sharp restriction on all ten criteria, which culminated in the complete destruction of independent NGOs and free media. That is, economic growth and freedom restrictions were in discord, which led to the destruction of the economy, like a suspension bridge crossing the river from one bank to another.

In this case, Azerbaijan was not able to take advantage of the historic chance to re-create value and build a democratic state, which for the first time in the East attempted to create a founder of the first democratic republic 1918-20. Then, as a result of the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Azerbaijani elite have declared it committed to liberal democracy and recorded its position in the Act of Independence. The implementation of its provisions has been delayed for 70 years during the Soviet empire. In 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, Azerbaijan had the chance to implement the provisions of the liberal declaration, which has been declared constitutionally enshrined and will of the people, expressed in many thousands of areal rallies. However, subsequently, the second of the liberal-democratic declaration "Constitutional Act on State Independence" adopted in 1991 is taking longer, but consistent way of emasculation that ultimately turned the Constitution and other relevant laws in the declarative documents.

The definition of liberal democracy

Encyclopedia gives the following definition of liberal democracy: It is a form of social and political order - a legal state based on representative democracy, in which the will of the majority and the ability of elected representatives to exercise power in the name of limited protection of minority rights and freedoms of individual citizens. Liberal democracy is aimed at ensuring equal rights for every citizen to due process of law, private property, privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.

The most frequently cited criteria of liberal democracy are in the form of civil rights and freedoms. Most of these freedoms have been borrowed from various currents of liberalism, however, acquired the functional significance:

The right to life and personal dignity

• Freedom of speech

• Freedom of media and access to alternative sources of information

• Freedom of religion and the public expression of religious views

• The right to associate in political, professional and other organizations

• Freedom of assembly and an open public debate

• Academic freedom

• Independent justice

• Equality before the law

• The right to due process under the rule of law

• Privacy and the right to privacy

• The right to own property and private enterprise

• Freedom of movement and choice of place of work

• The right to education

• The right to free labor and freedom from excessive economic exploitation

• Equal opportunities

"Road map" the liberation of the individual

Government partners in the implementation of these criteria in the classic sense should be a civil society represented by independent NGOs and the media. However, in a situation with Azerbaijan they were excluded from the process. The Government committed itself, under the guise of protecting "national interests and values," on the establishment of full control over the civil society by the power of oppression and financial subordination. Foreign donors were evicted from the country, and funding is provided by the State in a limited way. The slight foreign funding under state control is allowed. Thus, are funded organizations and projects which may not infringe on the policy of the authoritarian regime, which provides full control over society by force and total propaganda? As a result, the blocking of the civil society participation in public decision-making and their implementation, have led to serious mistakes and abuses.

Due to forgetting liberal democratic values ​​Azerbaijan is among the countries with rampant high level of corruption, trafficking, violation of private property rights, human rights, freedom of speech and expression, the right to protection, and overall total state control over society. In once-tolerant country is observed the rise of extremism, as evidenced by the many number of people who joined the LIH. Citizens emigrate from the country rapidly for political and economic reasons, entering the migration flows resulting from other authoritarian countries.

By the end of 2016 President Ilham Aliyev's administration announced a "roadmap" of economic reforms for the country out of the crisis, which he plans to begin next year. But the plan has been formed without such a component as the liberation of an individual, that is, it does not imply any significant parallel decisions to ensure the rights and freedoms of citizens. Taking into account the influence of the degree of personal freedom in the economic development and well-being, it is possible to predict that the proposed reform will not give significant dividends, and will only hold the position of the country between sharp and soft phases of permanent crisis with a low level of well-being and the production of internal and external negatives. In this case, it would be better to adopt in Azerbaijan "a road map" for the liberation of the individual and the union of two road maps in a policy document.

Disposition of countries with liberal democracy

In the countries with liberal democracies there is a two-pronged approach to respond to the situation in the authoritarian countries. First, is a comfort, suggesting focusing on internal development and improvement of the democratic values ​​of their societies, welfare enhancing. Second, approach provides protection of values ​​beyond its borders on the basis not only of the requirements of solidarity, but also security, which is threatened by unstable countries exporting threats as terrorism, extremism, impeding the development of the free movement of goods and services to the global market, which is a significant part of interests, first and foremost, the countries-leaders of economic development, and hence their societies.

In this sense, the democratic world should be interested in supporting the reformist governments, and a free civil society. At the same time the countries of democracy, understanding their own safety, must resolutely block the regimes that violate the fundamental rights of citizens and adopted international obligations, which are based both on their own constitutions, and on the international instruments adopted by them, such as the Helsinki Final Act on Security and cooperation in Europe.

In this sense, Azerbaijan, as a country, which occupies an important geopolitical position, where its people twice in the last hundred years proclaimed commitment to liberal-democratic values, should receive such support and assistance in the implementation of the two historic declarations of independence. The systemic crisis in Azerbaijan caused by the policy of ignoring these values can only be resolved by the parallel establishment of the rule of liberal-democratic values ​​and economic reforms. There is no other way. The crisis has convincingly demonstrated that it has become the result of erroneous and harmful government policies built suppression of civil rights and freedoms.

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