Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 293- (27/05/05)
Will Aliyev's luck hold?
Azerbaijan may be on the edge of turmoil, so at least many think. The Rose
Revolution in Georgia has put a massive question mark over the future of the
regime. President Ilham Aliyev was fortunate to be elected in October 2003, just
before presidential elections in Georgia in November of that year. His own
election was rigged, but in a manner the opposition were not well organised to
In Georgia it was a very different situation. Eduard Shevardnadze was a tired
and played-out old warhorse, ready to depart when it was shown that his
re-election had been rigged. But then he faced an obvious successor in Mikhail
Saakashvili, the leader of a highly-prepared opposition.
Ilham Akiyev has so far been very lucky. In his youth he was a profligate
gambler, so much so that his father, Heydar Aliyev, the then president, had the
casinos closed down in Baku to prevent his playboy of a son squandering more
He was able to lose so much on the tables because he was the scion of the family
that has ruled the country for decades. Everyone that counts in Azerbaijan is an
Aliyev or a crony of the Aliyevs. In a nation where power was in the hands of
regional clans, their clan has long been supreme.
The money all comes from copious oil reserves, of which it has 31bn barrels on
conservative estimates, and there was little distinction between the money of
the State and that of the Aliyevs.
Highest quantity of oil in Azerbaijan will be produced in 2005
The highest quantity of oil ever is to be produced in 2005 in Azerbaijan -
20,293,000 tons. The president of the state oil company (SOCAR) Naik Aliyev,
inevitably an Aliyev, informed the press about this, speaking on 29th April in
Milli Mejlis, the agency Trend reports.
He said that this result was achieved thanks to successful realization of the
oil strategy of Azerbaijan. "For the whole history of Azerbaijan the fact
of production of such quantity of oil was fixed during the Second World War.
Starting from 1994, as a result of the stability created by Heydar Aliyev in the
state, foreign investors invest finances in the development of the hydrocarbon
sites of Azerbaijan".
The SOCAR president mentioned that 8, 976,400 tons of oil was produced in 2004.
This was 226 thousand tons more than was planned.
It is just possible that Aliyev's luck is running out. For in recent weeks, a
number of anti-government coalitions have emerged in Azerbaijan with the aim of
winning parliamentary seats in elections in November.
Moreover, an eminently Western power, Norway, intends to be an observer
scrutinising democracy and transparency in the forthcoming elections, Steinar
Gil, the Norwegian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, told Trend. The recent visit by
Trun Yischke, a Norwegian MP, to Azerbaijan which ended on 29th April, pursued
During the visit the Norwegian MP held a meeting with the public and political
division of the President's Executive Power, Ali Hassanov; Executive Secretary
of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, Ali Ahmadov, and party functionaries, heads
of the pre-election blocs uniting the ruling opposition parties, the heads of
the leading non-governmental organizations and editors of independent and
opposition newspapers, including the editor-in- chief of the newspaper Arif
Major attention was paid at ensuring the rights of gathering, participation of
international observers in the elections, issues aligned with the establishment
of election commissions.
Yischke will prepare a report on the public and political and pre-election
political situation in Azerbaijan and submit it to the Norwegian parliament, the
diplomat said. According to Gil, the MP will also put forward the issue of
participation in the election of observers from the Norwegian parliament.
The mustering of the opposition
The opposition in the past has often failed to join forces in time to make a
political impact. But leaders of these groups say they have learned from past
mistakes and are determined to work together in order to bring democratic change
to the country. RFE/RL talked to the leaders of two of the new alliances --
former presidential aide Eldar Namazov and Popular Front Chairman Ali Kerimli.
Several opposition leaders and former government officials announced on 12th
April the creation of a new election bloc to run for seats in Azerbaijan's Milli
Meclis, or national parliament. The alliance is known as Yeni Siyaset (New
Politics). It includes Namazov, the chairman of Azerbaijan's Public Forum
nongovernmental organization, and a onetime aide of late President Heidar Aliyev.
Other members are Lale Sovket, the former chairwoman of Azerbaijan's Liberal
Party and a former secretary of state; and Etibar Mammedov, the former chairman
of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP).
Namazov said the ultimate aim of the Yeni Siyaset alliance is to put an end to
"a regime based on clan logic and corruption." He said that the bloc's
goals are detailed in a seven-point programme for leading the country in the
transition from authoritarianism to democracy.
Yeni Siyaset "will fight for free elections -- be they presidential,
legislative, or municipal -- and in-depth democratic reforms. In other words,
this bloc has not just been created in anticipation of the upcoming
[parliamentary] polls. We have broader strategic aims. We want authoritarianism
and Azerbaijan's corrupt politics to give way to a new, democratic system,"
The next democratic revolutionary?
Although not widely known in the West, Namazov has long been active in
Azerbaijani politics. From 1993 to 1999, he served as head of Heydar Aliyev's
secretariat. He then entered parliament in 2000, but was barred from running in
the controversial presidential poll in 2003.
That vote saw Aliyev's son, Ilham, win by a landslide and launch a crackdown on
the opposition, whom he accused of stirring up political unrest.
Unlike Namazov, some founding members of Yeni Siyaset did run in the 2003
presidential polls. Sovket, running as an independent candidate, officially took
3.3 percent of the vote. Mammedov won 2.7 percent.
Both Sovket and Mammedov claimed the vote was fraudulent. But neither joined the
street protests staged by the Musavat Party, whose chairman, Isa Qambar, had
finished second in the presidential race.
The new alliances are a departure from past opposition partnerships. In the
run-up to the 2003 elections, Mammedov, then head of AMIP, teamed up with Ali
Kerimli, the chairman of the reformist wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular
But Mammedov has since left the AMIP and joined Yeni Siyaset. For his part,
Kerimli allied himself with Qambar's Musavat and the Democratic Party of exiled
oppositionist Rasul Quliyev.
Kerimli told RFE/RL the Azerbaijani opposition has learned its lesson from the
previous election campaign. This time, instead of waiting until late in the race
to join ranks, he says they have decided to consolidate well in advance.
"For us these elections are not mere elections. They are a way to achieve
freedom of choice," Kerimli said. "But we won't be able to reach this
goal if we remain isolated. This is why it is indispensable for us to join
forces. After analysing the 2003 polls and their outcome, we came to the
conclusion that we must put our forces and resources together and get prepared
well in advance if we want to avert a new defeat. This is why we started our
election campaign so early."
Kerimli said the crackdown that followed Ilham Aliyev's victory demoralized the
opposition, which went on to boycott the 2004 municipal elections. But he said
the tide has reversed and that "the opposition is now much stronger than
Both Kerimli and Namazov said it is possible their alliances will back a single
candidate in November. It remains unclear, however, whether the Azerbaijani
opposition will be able to overcome its traditional divisions.
Already, a number of AMIP and Democratic Party figures have been lured into a
third antigovernment coalition created in January. Known as Hemreylik ve Etimad
(Solidarity and Trust), this alliance is chaired by Ilqar Qasimov, a former
Russian Justice Ministry official and a reported co-author of the Russia-Belarus
Many in Baku suspect that despite its self-described opposition stance, this
bloc may prove to be either a government puppet or a way for Russia to maintain
influence in Azerbaijani politics. By contrast, the blocs chaired by Namazov and
Kerimli are widely perceived as being pro-Western, if only because their leaders
are regularly invited to meet decision makers in the United States and Europe.
Namazov said the West has been closely following developments in Azerbaijan, but
so far is wary of backing a single political group. "We've been developing
close ties with international structures and democratic countries, including the
United States and European states," he said. "But our feeling is that
they do not wish to lend support to any particular individual, or political
party. What Europe and the United States support, first of all, is
[Azerbaijan's] democratic process. They've stated that on more than one
occasion, and I believe they are sincere."
Namazov and Kerimli both noted that the West is currently pressing the
government to amend the existing election law and ensure that the upcoming vote
is fair and democratic. They also say it was Western pressure that forced Ilham
Aliyev to order the release of all opposition leaders sentenced last year for
their participation in the November 2003 unrest.
Both leaders say they want use elections to achieve democratic changes. But they
caution against a repeat of the recent political upheaval in Ukraine and
"We want these elections to be democratic, honest, and fair," Kerimli
said. "We're getting prepared for elections, not a revolution. We want
[everything] to go peacefully, democratically, and legally. But should the
government try to oppose this, should it attempt once again to falsify the
election's outcome, we will not let ourselves be pushed around and there will be
a popular resistance movement against frauds. If the government wants to avert
this, it has only one option -- to ensure that the upcoming polls are free and
Namazov said any perception of election fraud will inevitably lead to popular
resistance. He ruled out, however, the possibility of violent protests such as
the ones that followed the 2003 vote. "We believe society is mature enough
to not let a few thousand individuals armed with truncheons and stones confront
police forces," he said.
Journalist's death raises a political storm
The shooting death of a prominent opposition journalist has raised
Azerbaijan's political temperature, ahead of the parliamentary elections. In a
well organised murder an unknown assailant shot and killed 38-year-old Elmar
Huseynov on March 2nd in the hallway outside his apartment on the outskirts of
Baku. Huseynov, the editor-in-chief of the opposition Monitor magazine, was
buried March 4th.
One of Azerbaijan's best known dissident journalists, Huseynov had frequently
tangled with authorities. Lawsuits brought by officials and Aliyev relatives
resulted in large fines against Monitor in recent years. In 2002, Huseynov
received a six-month prison term for allegedly slandering the mayor of Baku, but
was pardoned and released within two months.
Opposition members, human rights activists and journalists have no doubts that
the killing was a politically motivated crime. Authorities, including President
Ilham Aliyev, have vigorously denied any involvement, blaming the murder instead
on a mysterious force that seeks to "discredit Azerbaijan in a
parliamentary election year." This is not an explanation that has achieved
any credibility at all - nor does it deserve to.
Dismissing official rhetoric, many Azerbaijani journalists remain sceptical that
the government will vigorously pursue the Huseynov murder case. In an interview
with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Baku Press Club Deputy
Director Chingiz Sultansoy said that Huseynov had received several threats
recently and feared for his safety. Expressing little confidence in official
investigators, a group of journalists have announced plans to carry out their
own murder investigation.
Clues to the culprit's identity appear sketchy, even though a pistol with a
silencer, believed to be the murder weapon, was found near the crime scene.
Neither Huseynov's family members, nor his neighbours reported hearing the
shots, and no witness sightings have been made. The electricity and telephone
service to Huseynov's apartment were cut off at approximately the same time as
the shots were fired, estimated at 8:30pm on March 2nd. Calls from the
journalist's cell phone were also reportedly blocked, thereby allegedly
preventing his family from immediately summoning an ambulance. This indicates of
course that at least a team were involved with access not available to ordinary
Huseynov's murder is the latest in a string of violent attacks on Azerbaijani
journalists over the past year by unknown assailants. Eynulla Fatullayev, the
deputy editor of Monitor, was badly beaten last year, and the editor of another
newspaper, Baki Habar, was kidnapped several months ago. In late February, Lider
TV aired footage that showed the editor of the opposition newspaper Azadliq,
Ganimat Zahidov, and a colleague nude in the company of two prostitutes. Zahidov
claims that the photos were taken under threat of violence.
A contract killing
With the crime bearing all the signs of a government sponsored contract
killing, opposition leaders immediately focused their suspicions on the Aliyev
administration, labelling Huseynov's death an act of "state terror"
designed to stifle criticism of the government.
"We could expect this murder. This action is directed at intimidation of
the people," Ali Kerimli, leader of the Popular Front Party, said at a
March 3 conference in Baku on media rights. "It is not just the
assassination of a journalist. It is an encroachment on the will of the people
One international human rights organization largely echoed that evaluation.
"This looks like an organized murder that aimed to silence criticism by one
magazine and scare off anyone else who was thinking of following in Huseynov's
footsteps," Rachel Denber, acting executive director of Human Rights
Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, said.
International reactions also tended to assess the killing as a blow against
civil society development in Azerbaijan. The European Union's mission said
Huseynov's death was "an attack on free media, democracy, pluralism and the
people of Azerbaijan." A US embassy statement described Huseynov as "a
dedicated champion of media freedom" and "a man who stood up for his
beliefs and principles, even in the face of great adversity."
Aliyev tries to quiet the perturbation
Aliyev and other officials responded immediately, seeking to dispel the
obvious impression that the government was connected to the crime.
Administration officials are clearly concerned about the murder's potential to
aggravate Azerbaijan's domestic political situation. A government statement
urged that "regardless of its motives, Huseynov's assassination cannot be
used for political purposes," whatever that night mean.
In an interview with local television stations, Aliyev reinforced that stance,
terming Huseynov's murder "barbarism" and telling viewers that the
attack was not in keeping with the country's democratic and economic
development. "Those who have committed the crime attempted to damage
Azerbaijan's international image, to discredit it before the parliamentary
elections and present the country as an unstable and non-democratic state, where
freedom of speech is violated and acts of terrorism are committed," Aliyev
told a meeting of the Security Council that same day, the presidential press
office reported. They did not report the responses of Aliyev's cronies on this
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party appeared to
blame the killing on an unnamed "third force" seeking to destabilize
the country. It characterized Huseynov's murder as a "provocation intended
to whip up tension ... and deal a blow to Azerbaijan's international
Aliyev pressed law-enforcement officials to capture and try the killer, the
Lider television channel reported. To help assuage potential public doubts,
Azerbaijani officials have also welcomed the arrival of a US Federal Bureau of
Investigation expert to assist Azerbaijani police in the murder probe.
Beyond the investigation, Aliyev urged government officials to refrain from
taking legal action against media outlets, potentially signalling that the
government intends to ease the pressure on opposition media outlets. Human
rights advocates have said such lawsuits have been used in the past to impede
freedom of expression and prevent opposition parties from conveying their
political messages to the public.
Japan to finance 2nd combined cycle plant in Azerbaijan
Construction of the second 400MWt combined cycle plant in the Shimal SRPS on the
Absheron peninsula will have a positive influence on economic development of the
area, Azerenergy OSC press service reported recently.
Azerenergy has carried out negotiations with the Japan Bank for International
Cooperation (JBIC) on allotment of credit for the installation of the second
combined cycle plant as well. Group chief engineer, Marlen Askerov, said the
Japanese side agreed to finance the project. Azeri Deputy premier, Abid Sharifov,
met with the Japanese side and a relevant document was signed. Currently, the
final draft of the finance-credit agreement is under scrutiny. The first similar
power station built on credit allotted by the Japan government is the only such
device in the CIS, Azerenergy OSC president, Etibar Priverdiyev, said.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Azerbaijan, Germany talk economic relations
German Ambassador to Azerbaijan Detlef Lingeman recently visited the national
Confederation of the Entrepreneurs (Employers') Organisations of Azerbaijan
Republic (AEC), Interfax News Agency reported.
During the talks, both sides exchanged views on economic ties between Azerbaijan
and Germany, cooperation possibilities and establishment of business cooperation
between the local and foreign companies. President of AEC Alakbar Mammadov
highlighted the involvement of German and Azerbaijani businessmen into the joint
business forums, establishment of bilateral business cooperation and especially
dwelled on problems of Azerbaijani employers.