Reform of the Institution of Municipalities in Azerbaijan: A comparative analysis with Turkey

Amendments to two key laws related to municipalities are currently being discussed in the National Assembly of Azerbaijan. Basically, we are talking about reducing the number of municipalities and their possible unification. Proponents of these amendments argue that such changes are necessary to improve the efficiency of municipal activities. However, against the background of these discussions, the recent municipal elections in Turkey have caused controversy regarding the functioning of self-government bodies in Azerbaijan.

Since the concept of municipalities appeared in the constitutional framework of Azerbaijan in 1995, significant progress has been made in their organization and management, said Mazakhir Efendiyev, a member of the Milli Majlis Committee on Regional Issues. In an interview with Turan, he emphasized the historical context, paying tribute to the leadership of Heydar Aliyev for laying the foundation for municipal development. Despite the progress made, Efendiyev recognizes that there is room for improvement, emphasizing the need for ongoing legislative reforms to improve the efficiency of municipalities. He stresses that while the existing system provides a framework, concerted efforts are needed to strengthen the institution of self-government and promote greater citizen participation in municipal affairs.

However, Efendiyev cautioned against making direct comparisons between the municipal systems of Azerbaijan and Turkey. While Turkey boasts a developed system, Azerbaijan, as a relatively young independent state, is still at the initial stage of its development. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan is closely following Turkey's experience, using valuable information to substantiate its own management practices.

Bashir Suleimanli, head of the Institute of Civil Rights, advocates the unification of small municipalities into larger entities to increase transparency and operational efficiency. He stresses the importance of defining clear operational mechanisms and further improving the legislative framework for the empowerment of municipalities. It is important to note that Suleymanli calls for a restructuring of the power structure, advocating the decentralization of powers from executive bodies to municipalities. He argues that such empowerment is essential to build public trust, encourage compliance with tax laws, and encourage active citizen participation in the self-government system.

Nevertheless, Suleymanli argues that municipal functions in Azerbaijan remain extremely insufficient. Despite their elective nature, municipalities often function as branches of the executive branch, which limits their autonomy and hinders significant development. In order to solve this problem, Suleymanli stresses the need for municipalities to take a more responsible and proactive approach to their responsibilities, thereby increasing their effectiveness as independent governing bodies.

In conclusion, I would like to note that based on the experience of Turkey, Azerbaijan should give priority to legislative amendments aimed at empowering municipalities, decentralizing power and promoting more active citizen participation. Only through such concerted efforts will municipalities be able to truly fulfill their mandate as autonomous self-governing entities, contributing to socio-economic development and improving the well-being of citizens.

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