Wednesday, July 20

What you need to know about proposal for yet another referendum in Azerbaijan?

This would be a third time our country will have a constitutional referendum.

The first one was introduced by Heydar Aliyev. A year before his death, on August 24, 2002 Aliyev introduced a number of critical constitutional amendments giving the Prime Minister the power to act as an interim President- the power which previously rested with the speaker of the parliament- until the new round of elections. It was not the only critical amendment. “The most important changes over which the referendum is believed to have been organized were the cancellation of the proportional electoral system, which implied that deputies are to be selected only on the basis of single-member constituencies; the number of votes required for the election of President was reduced to simple majority where before two thirds of votes were required; and transfer authority to ban political parties from the Constitutional Court to public courts”. 

The day of the referendum was marred by violations, fraud, and yet, passed with 97percent vote.

In 2009, Ilham Aliyev, the son of Heydar Aliyev had his own referendum on March 18, which allowed him to cross off the presidential term limit among other critical amendments. Needless to say fraud and violations were abound. You know what they say, "like father like son". 

And just when we thought it cannot get any worse, Ilham Aliyev (who has been in power since 2003) decides to introduce a whole new series of amendments in another referendum. 

So what does he propose this time? In total there are 29 proposed amendments: 
- broadly speaking to reorganize the legislative as well as executive branches; 
- Aliyev suggests to extend his presidential term by another 2 years, making it 7 years in total; and have the right to announce elections at any time;
- Prime Minister would be replaced by first vice president and vice presidents; 
- Vice presidents will have immunity throughout their service. Unless vice presidents are caught "in action" committing a crime, he/she (most likely he) will be totally untouchable;
- President would have the right to introduce "extraordinary election" for president;
- Minimum of 35 age limit for presidential candidacy will be removed;
- The age limit for parliament member candidates would be reduced to 18;
- In case of human rights and freedoms violations, civil servants will only carry civic responsibility;
- Citizenship: according to current constitution, Azerbaijani citizen can not under any circumstance be deprived of his/her right to Azerbaijani citizenship. The new amendment suggests to remove "cannot under any circumstance"; 
- Land ownership can be restricted by law

What do these mean? Well it depends on who you ask. 

Alovsat Aliyev says that for instance removing "cannot under any circumstance" clause to the article on citizenship will increase cases of forced revoking. "This has to do with the government's interests in revoking citizenship from any citizen it wants", says the expert. 

On the amendment on land ownership, lawyer Yalchin Imanov says, "so basically now, property or land will be taken. Because up until now, constitution ensured immunity of property and the government was obliged to fulfill this immunity".

But not everyone is worried. Siyavush Novruzov, a parliament member thinks, "as the country develops, its security mechanisms improve, and reforms are carried out within state structures, it is important to make necessary amendments to constitution". As for the 7 year term limit, Novruzov had something even more outlandish to say. "Azerbaijan holds elections for three consecutive years [referring to presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections]. It takes one year to prepare for each election. That's why increasing presidential term from 5 to 7 is praiseworthy". 

Something tells me this referendum will go through just like all other referendums. And president will have all that he needs to ensure his son enters politics soon enough and it all will be fine in the land of Aliyevistan.

Tuesday, June 7

Interested in an all-expense paid trip to Azerbaijan? Here is your chance, don't miss out!

No joke! Turns out, the Ministry of Youth and Sports says [AZ] they will cover expenses of guests coming for the Youthvision-the Eurovision for young singers scheduled to take place June 22-24, they are just not saying how much this is going to cost the country's coffers. 

The irony in all this is that, Azerbaijan's economy devalued twice. The ministry of education recently spoke about "problems" in funding Azerbaijani students abroad. And yet, we are yet to pay for another all-expense paid visit (just like it was during the European Games last year). 

But it is ok. Because no one in Azerbaijan is going to say anything about it and the regime will continue abusing their power because they know there won't be resistance. And then they will start another mini war with Armenia and will shift the focus like they always do. 

Speaking in Davos in January 2016, President Aliyev said the the low in oil prices was "psychologically difficult". Wonder whose psychology he was referring to here? His? His family's? His cronies'? Because surely, it must be extremely difficult for their psychology to handle the reality that there will be less money to steal. And looks like they have determined a new strategy- if there is less for them, there will certainly be nothing for the people. 

You see, President Aliyev is all about moral barometers- we are better than X, Y, Z country although more often than not, the President's favorite country to compare Azerbaijan with, is neighboring Armenia boasting about the budget difference and the spending.

What he and people around him tend to forget (or neglect) however, is that whatever big investment is brought into the country- the Crystal Hall, the Stadiums, the Malls and the upscale shops- they ain't for the public consumption. Precisely because of the inequality and class difference that was created by and large during the Aliyev leadership (first his father, and later his son). 

Who will benefit from coming to Azerbaijan for three days in an all-expense paid trip in June? Tourists! Yes, they might spend some manats here and there, but by and large it will be the visitors. If the Ministry of Youth and Sports is so generous- why not spend that money on paying for Azerbaijanis vacation at home or abroad? 

But until this ever becomes possible (i am lucky to live outside of the country, because who knows, my head might get chopped off for saying all this) dear visitors who will attend the Youthvision or the Formula 1 race, enjoy beautiful Azerbaijan or at least what is left of it but don't forget the country you are visiting is pretty nasty when it comes to treating its own people and watching out for their well-beings.