The arrest of the Deputy Minister of Culture Rafik Bayramov

The arrest of the Deputy Minister of Culture Rafik Bayramov


- Arastun bey, recently the SSS has been arresting a number of officials. Probably, you follow these processes too. What do you think is happening? It is no secret that these steps are taken with the consent of the government. But to whom and what messages does the government give in taking these steps?

Arastun Orujlu- Of course, like all that happened, we are watching them closely, and I must say that there is no systematic and rational line in the arrests themselves, nor in the methods of their implementation. The arrests themselves are notable for their impulsiveness and chaotic nature, and I think the harm of their implementation outweighs their benefits. It seems as if someone has presented a counter-productive scenario to the government, and everything happens according to that scenario. But probably, first of all, the reasons for these arrests are interesting, and to clarify this, we must pay attention to how the current situation in the country differs from 2-3 months ago. The differences are clear: on the one hand, the pandemic and the socio-economic conditions it created, on the other hand, the sharp decline in oil prices, which are the country's main source of income, have exacerbated the already existing psychological tensions. If we call this a crisis situation, it should also be noted that the government's lack of a crisis program, or at least a crisis tactic, complicates the situation even more. However, in any country, especially in a country with a fragile socio-economic and socio-political model, crisis situations must always be considered. As can be seen, this has not existed and does not exist today. The steps taken give a more chaotic impression. In this case, the government, aware of the possible dangers, takes various measures that it considers effective. If we take into account that the government in Azerbaijan is also a centralized authoritarian model, then we can say that the arrests were more preventive and repressive. In other words, the government thinks that it will prevent possible complications with the fear of arrests, repression, and violence. The main address of the messages is the government structures themselves because today the government is not as monolithic as before, there are growing tendencies of strife and struggle within it, which also deepens the existing cracks. That is, the goal is to achieve consolidation in this way. Undoubtedly, there are divisions within the government, inter-group struggles, and other factors behind the arrests, but I think they are secondary and tertiary.

- It was no secret that the heads of the executive powers were "local kings". Even after the events in Guba and Ismayilli a few years ago, the government was probably aware of the wealth of the chief executives of those regions, as well as the wealth of other ministers, officials, and chief executives, about which the media has been reporting for years. I wonder why these steps are being taken now? Is it true that the government has now started a serious fight against corruption, or are there other invisible aspects of the issue?

- The status of "local kings" of the heads of executive powers was created by the government itself and today it has become a hostage of those kings. Let's take a look at one of the aspects of the events mentioned above in the Guba 2012 and Ismayilli in 2013. What happened in both districts was caused by the humiliation of the people by these local feudal lords. In both cases, the government had two choices: either to take the side of the insulted people or the rampageous persons who insulted them. In both Guba and Ismayilli, the authorities sided with the perpetrators by committing injustice, and this was not without reason. The point is that even at the highest ranks of government, they look down on the people they have plundered, impoverished, and left in need of a piece of bread. They do not understand the very simple truth that the only thing left for such people is their pride, which is the source of their solacement, and that when the one hurts their pride, they will go to any lengths. There are many officials in the government who see their identity, personality, and social status only in the amount of wealth they have accumulated, and they will never comprehend such a simple truth as the poor man's sense of pride. Apparently, for this reason, since the object of repression in these areas is the common people, the rampageousness and arrogance of the "local kings" you mentioned have increased, and today the government sees the "virus" that it has created as a threat. At the same time, I want to say that there is no fight against corruption and it cannot be, because in today's Azerbaijan, corruption is not only a way to accumulate wealth but also a mechanism of governance. The government has an exact information about ​​the wealth of every official, but the reason that they are taking these steps now is what I said. The government already sees them as a source of danger.

- There are three versions about these steps in the society. The first is that the government continues to clean up the clan, which has begun since last year. In other words, it destroys the people appointed by the other strewn clan in this way and gains prestige in the name of the fight against corruption. The second is that the government intends to reform local government bodies. That is, it wants to abolish local executive power institutions. Therefore, with the fact that these institutions are corrupted, it wants to eliminate them and create a new local government structure. The third version is that the government wants to discredit its old party by firing officials appointed by members of the ruling party. For example, Ali Ahmadov's statement said that they were sorry that these officials were members of the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP). Prior to his statement, no one was interested in of which party the chief executives are members. Which of these versions is reasonable?

- There is no strewn clan, and in general, the clan is one, there are just different groups within it, which contend for the distribution of wealth. Even if it would be as you said, there was no need for the next and numerous "Black Belt" operations. An order is issued, a person is removed from office, his wealth is confiscated, and he is either punished or sent to rest in one of his many summer houses. But I do not believe that the demonstration of the millions collected by the chief executives to hundreds of thousands of people who could not get 190 AZN state aid has had a positive effect on the authority's reputation. Most likely, on the contrary, it increases anger, resentment, and hatred for the government. I think now is not the time to abolish the local executive power as an institution and replace it with another body. In general, the current institutions of executive power are the structures that best fit the model and nature of the current government. As for the fact that the arrested are members of the YAP, supposedly, aren't the other corrupt people, who were exposed or not, members of that party, and what alternative support will the government get by ignoring this party, and with what structures will it cover all spheres of society? Therefore, among the version that you mentioned, a version of clearing the image of power seems convincing a little, and there is not the slightest doubt that it will have the opposite effect.

- By the way, regarding the third version, some experts have been saying for years that the government will create a new party. This version is even more popular after the last parliamentary elections. There are opinions that in this election too, the new wing of the government failed to win over the old wing and the party under its control. Can we witness the emergence of a new ruling party in Azerbaijan in the near future?

- If I am not mistaken, we talked about it once and I repeat what I said then: building a new party requires great resources, first of all, experienced human resources, but in Azerbaijan, it is almost non-existent. On the other hand, the YAP is a structured, clan, rooted organization so that it is not as easy to abandon as it is said. To give up the YAP means to face it at the barricade, and in this case, it is still a question of who will win. As I said, building a new party takes a lot of time, but there is no time.

- What do you think? Will there be a continuation of these arrests, this cleaning? Or will these steps of the government continue until they reach a common goal? So what will we see at the end of the process of these arrests?

- Arrests may continue and even transfer to other government structures, but I am not sure that they will have the expected effect. If the government expects to divert attention from the socio-economic crisis, then I do not imagine such a result. That is why I do not see any prospects for arrests, repressions, and violence. Of course, we are talking about the prospects expected by the government, but the opposite is possible, and unfortunately, this is my expectation. In my opinion, instead, it would be more appropriate to focus on the launch of a fully stagnant economy today, which would serve to alleviate the impending socio-economic crisis. The socio-economic crisis raises not only the rhetorical but also the practical question "Will there be bread?", the answer to which can be either "yes" or "no". The subsequent course of events depends only on that answer.

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