- The election marathon has started in Azerbaijan. The municipal elections scheduled for December 23 and early parliamentary elections scheduled for February 9. How is the process going on?
-The process is going on the way the government wants. Speaking specifically about the municipal elections, in spite of the obligations undertaken by the authorities to the Council of Europe and the accession to the charter of local self-government, the authorities for a long time did not want to make any changes in the status of municipalities, as well as to fulfil properly obligations. In large cities, especially in Baku, authorities are reluctant to hold mayoral elections. For this reason, people do not show serious interest in municipalities. Secondly, the tradition of elections has not been formed in Azerbaijan. The election impression is very negative. There is no serious trust in elections in society. For this reason, people understand that elections will not be held normally. They consider it meaningless to participate in a governing body that does not have a status, and the elections to which are not normal, and therefore show their distrust and adequate reaction accordingly. Today we are witnesses to the fact that municipal elections are not held in Azerbaijan. Attitudes towards parliamentary elections are different. This is due to both parliamentary status and the latest hasty events. That is, the replacement of the old cadres by the authorities and parting with them, as well as the desire to present this as a trend, created among people, especially the young generation, the hope that they could participate in this process. There is an increase in their activity. The role here is played by the status of parliament. From this point of view, the activity in the parliamentary elections is significantly different.
-You said that usually the municipal elections in Azerbaijan are sluggish; this year is no exception. Two or three activists added colors to the elections. However, in connection with the parliamentary elections, as you noted, there is a stir. It is felt that more people want to participate in these elections. In your opinion, what is such a great interest in the current parliamentary elections? Why are people so encouraged?
-People are encouraged because the possibility of being represented during the parliamentary elections is greater and more real than in other elections, especially the presidential one; because during the presidential election, the struggle is for one place, and the parliamentary - for 125 seats.
Secondly, the Azerbaijani authorities go to hasty elections. Before the announcement of the parliamentary elections, massive personnel changes took place in the power structures, in particular, in the governance structures. It was the departure of the old cadres and the arrival of new ones. I think that nothing new has happened here and only the names have changed. The essence, the political context, the ideological view have not changed. At the same time, elements of nepotism continue to take place in other structures of power. Most of those who came to positions are family members and close relatives of the old team or those who continue to hold some position. Here, in this sense, essentially nothing has changed. Despite this, people still got hope. If the topic of a new generation, youth, has appeared, then maybe some attention will be paid to us. Thirdly, the majority of active youth wanted, in fact, to test themselves during the parliamentary elections, which were planned for the fall. This was originally the case. However, in view of the acceleration of the process, the parliamentary elections, as it were, coincided with the municipal ones. Therefore, they began to try to take adequate accelerated steps in order to manage to nominate themselves during this process. This participation has generated such activity.
-You say that essentially nothing has changed. Based on what did you say so? May be because of observations, or some glimpses of the fact that no changes will be visible? Will there be any positive changes in these elections?
The following is important here - has the attitude of the authorities to these issues changed? Has rhetoric in politics changed? No, it has not changed. Has the conceptual view in politics, attitudes towards law, political players, and alternative opinions changed? Nothing has changed. Therefore, there is no difference who comes to power - a 70-year-old Hasan, or a 25-year-old Ahmed. Only some biological parameters have changed, or a physical replacement just happened, but essentially nothing has changed. What is the essence of these represented positive points? Let us say that a new trend has appeared on Public TV. The question arises: Is it possible to show the true face of power on ITV, to criticize the head of power? Is such an opportunity created by the so-called independent persons invited to this channel? Are there any questions on these programs in this direction? No, there are not. A similar process is taking place in parliamentary elections. Perhaps someone thinks that in the parliament will be given seats to both independent and opposition parties. I am not an optimist in this matter. I do not want to deceive the readers and myself. I suppose that the opportunity to be represented in parliament will not be given to those who can criticize the authorities' policies; they will try to really change the authorities’ policies, argue that such a policy is harmful and is trying its best to change this system.
- So you specifically think that this time representatives of the opposition and independent candidates may not get into parliament...?
-The approach of the authorities is the following - they do not want to solve the essence of the problem. For example, we give a comparison with toothache - if a tooth hurts, then they do not want to treat it. In the worst case, when a tooth rots, it is removed.
However, the tooth had to be treated beforehand so as not to bring to such a state. The Azerbaijani authorities are absolutely far from this approach. They block the tooth when they feel that it hurts that is, using some painkillers. The essence of politics in Azerbaijan is as follows. When they understand that international pressure has increased, they come up with new ideas that would give a respite. Decrees and orders are signed, a new wave of reforms begins, and a legislative base is being prepared. We have repeatedly witnessed this since 2005. In the presence of the Electoral Code, the President signed a decree twice in connection with the holding of democratic elections, but none of them was executed. After signing the decree on deepening legal reforms in April of this year, what signs appeared? What specific work was done? Nothing has been done, all deadlines have passed, but there are no results. Two years ago, it was the same. Nothing has changed conceptually. They are changing the form for presenting to international organizations “look, they say, new staff comes, new people come”. Allegedly, they will change the process. Old frames fixed objective limitations. Alternatively, being passive, they created them themselves, they are not ready for this or, being active, they themselves are opposed. The oligarchy was, and they interfered. Nominated people are represented as new technocrats, as more useful to the process. It is just power gaining time. Power, making each time this type of maneuver, wins the time, continuing to steer. I think the authorities have one concern: to maintain power and continue to steer, resorting to every opportunity.
-Despite your expectations, several electoral coalitions and blocs have already been created in connection with the participation in the parliamentary elections. Someone is agitating people to go to parliamentary elections. On the other hand, some opposition organizations boycott this election, demanding electoral reforms. Does it follow from what your words that the supporters of the boycott are more right in their demands?
- I do not want to speak out about the rightness or wrongness of someone. I do not consider myself entitled to give an assessment. I believe that the participating party has enough justifying arguments, as well as the boycotting side. Both of these practices have been tested to one degree or another. If you change the addends, the sum will not change, and if it comes to obtaining a specific result, representation in the legislative body and governing body, the results of these elections are not connected with the will of the people. Therefore, it is not worth talking about real results here. In any case, if we approach the issue from the point of view that the new is better than the old are, then this approach only proceeds from the goals of politicians and those involved in this process. The parties involved think that this should happen, as it is an election process. In addition, parliamentary elections, in contrast to the presidential and municipal, more real process. A change of president seems impossible. The balance of power and attitude of power vary greatly. Municipalities, in the absence of status, seem pointless. Parliamentary elections are both more attractive in terms of status and in terms of results. In addition, there are also legal opportunities for access to the European Court. From the point of view of the legal assessment of the results, as well as from the point of view of the requirement of violated rights, there are more attractiveness in participating in the parliamentary elections. In this process, you can participate with a large number of people. If the participants rely on these arguments for their participation, then I consider this acceptable. It is possible that among those involved there are those who hope to receive a mandate. There are those who themselves have gathered votes and hope that these votes will be accepted. I try to be aloof from this. In my opinion, this is simply the inability to feel the political reality in Azerbaijan or just to pretend. When viewed in this context, the parliamentary elections provide an opportunity to work with the people on a more correct choice, inform people about the processes that are taking place, and finally, organize the people's reaction to what is happening. The only issue that the authorities reckon with, which they cannot ignore, is public opinion. Even if the government does not want to reckon with public opinion or does not show what is considered, the government still cannot ignore this opinion. From this point of view, political forces should not avoid means of communication with society. This happens not only outside the elections through rallies and actions, but also through direct, personal communication with each house. It is necessary to use all opportunities, to encourage people to participate in this process, to inform about what is happening. It is necessary to convince the people that no matter how long and complicated this process was, its participants are not only old, but also new people who show political will. How much more actively they will work with the people, the corresponding results will be achieved.
- What is the purpose of holding early elections and calling them for such an early date - February 9? Why such a rush?
-The authorities are obliged to inform the public. However, unfortunately, the authorities do not feel such responsibility in themselves or may try to imagine themselves like that. We saw this during the referendum in 2016, during the extraordinary presidential elections; we saw that there was no need to hold them. Then they did not explain anything, did not give any reasons. It is clear that the authorities are in a hurry somewhere. The authorities should explain this. However, unfortunately, no explanation was given. I suppose that we do not need much time to wait for these explanations. In the near future, everything will become clear. After the parliamentary elections, I look forward to another regular election.
-What do you mean by the next election?
- Naturally, we are talking about the presidential election. An extraordinary presidential election may be held in 2020. I believe that such a haste of the authorities is connected precisely with the holding the presidential election.
-What is required to hold transparent, democratic elections in Azerbaijan? Is it possible to hold normal, fair elections with current legislation?
-To hold democratic elections in Azerbaijan, there is not enough political will. If the authorities show their will and desire, then it is possible to hold normal elections in Azerbaijan with the current Electoral Code and even election-controlled commissions. However, there is no such will in power. The goals of the authorities and their implementation follow from the current policy. The authorities are not faced with the task of holding democratic elections, and therefore the authorities are not interested in holding them. The challenge is to maintain power and, in this sense, holding democratic elections can create serious difficulties. Therefore, the government does not want to take risks.