BAKU: Azeri Pundits Divided On President’s Success In First Year InP


Ekho, Baku
15 Oct 04

No serious changes for the better have taken place in Azerbaijan
during President Ilham Aliyev’s first year in power, independent
political analyst Eldar Namazov has said. Namazov said that Ilham
Aliyev had failed to live up to the voters’ expectations – there is no
well-thought-out strategy to democratize the country, nor is there a
team capable of implementing this strategy. However, an official from
the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, Bahar Muradova, said that the public’s
trust in the president had increased and Ilham Aliyev had proved to
be “a global politician”. Another political expert, Zardust Alizada,
said that the president had promised to be faithful to his father
ex-President Heydar Aliyev’s policies and had kept his word. Thus,
“the past year was in no way different from previous years”. Political
analyst Inqilab Ahmadov praised the incumbent president for focusing
on regional development but said Aliyev failed to demonstrate a new
approach to economic reforms. The following is the text of S. Rza’s
report by Azerbaijani newspaper Ekho on 15 October headlined “What
did the past year bring to us?”; subheadings have been inserted

It has been exactly a year since Ilham Aliyev headed our country. Ekho
has asked well-known politicians and experts to comment on the results
of the first year of the incumbent president’s tenure.

“Global-level politician”

The deputy executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party,
Bahar Muradova, believes that the passed year has once again
proved that the policies of (late President) Heydar Aliyev will
be successfully continued. In addition, the public’s trust in the
president, whom they elected on 15 October 2003, has strengthened
over the past year.

“The incumbent president strengthened further the country’s
independence. In addition, he managed to step up domestic
stability. Ilham Aliyev achieved great success also in the economic
policy and in the implementation of the regional development
programme. Achievements in the country’s social sphere over the past
year have once again proved that the Azerbaijani people made the
right choice. Apart from this, the past year showed that the president
was interested in not only foreign policy issues directly related to
Azerbaijan but in global processes as well. He is trying to resolve
all these issues by providing quite important advice. Thus, he again
proved to be ‘a global-level politician’. The president once again
asserted in the past year that the country’s position on the Nagornyy
Karabakh conflict could not be changed. Ilham Aliyev demonstrated a
firm position in this connection and made it clear that the problem
could be resolved provided that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity
is observed.”

No changes for better

Political analyst Eldar Namazov, head of the civil forum For
Azerbaijan, is less optimistic about the passed year. He said that
the expectations of the voters who hoped that reforms would be
launched in the country after the election of a new leader did not
come true. No changes have taken place in the economy. Namazov said
that at the same time there were serious doubts over whether there
was a well-thought-out strategy to democratize the country. “It is
also obvious that there is lack of a team that could implement this
programme,” he said.

Namazov said that it was next to impossible to differentiate between
foreign policy issues and processes inside the country. “Azerbaijan’s
image is mainly formed on the basis of what is happening inside
the country. There are no serious changes for the better in this
regard. The country is still on the crossroads, as it was ahead of
the presidential elections.”

The political analyst believes that the cancellation of NATO exercises
in Azerbaijan was the gravest mistake in the foreign policy in the
past year. “This undoubtedly inflicted serious damage to Azerbaijan in
the Euro-Atlantic space.” In Namazov’s opinion, this was a serious
mistake of the country’s authorities. “It is still unclear what
countries and directions are our priorities. There remained more
questions than answers in the foreign policy in the past year.”

Employment cornerstone of president’s economic policy

“A year is not a very big period of time in terms of economic
achievements in order to assess all its parameters. But something still
can be said about some tendencies,” Inqilab Ahmadov, director of the
Institute for Economic Analysis, said. There are some moments which
can be viewed as achievements of the incumbent president. Certain
contours and directions became clear over the past year. First,
more attention is paid to regional development. To some extent, this
was the result of the endorsed regional development programme. In
fact, regional development was in the focus of the government. Some
facilities were opened and investment projects were launched in the
regions with state assistance. The country’s leadership tends to boost
employment in the regions. Employment became the cornerstone of the
government’s economic policy.”

The expert said that the country’s oil sector was developing quite
successfully. “The newly-elected president was lucky over the past
year to some extent. Oil prices have surged recently. The price of
Azerbaijani oil exceeds 50 dollars (per barrel). This resulted in
more funds being channelled into the social sphere.”

However, the expert regrets that in the past year “we did not witness
a conceptual new approach to economic reforms. Apart from this, no
active steps were taken towards structural reforms. The institutional
activities of the country’s economy were not reformed. These major
issues were not dealt with in the past year.” Ahmadov said that they
might be dealt with next year.

Commenting on employment, the expert stressed that the
figures advertised by officials did not point to a qualitative
change in this issue. “Many statistical data are sometimes
contradictory. Unfortunately, private business has not really
reached the regions. Employment in the country’s regions was mainly
subsidized. Increasing prices are becoming quite a serious problem. We
will be speaking more often about this problem next year when it
really becomes a pressing issue. This is of course connected with an
increase in social payments both from the budget and non-budgetary
funds. But this is not the only factor causing the increase in
prices. The monopoly problem still remains in the country’s economy,
and it was not resolved in the past year.”

Faithful to father’s line

Political analyst Zardust Alizada believes that “the past year was
noted for the fact that the new president continued the political
line of national leader Heydar Aliyev. This in fact means giving
away the country to foreign companies for plundering, trampling
upon all freedoms and putting full pressure on the press.” All this,
the political analyst said, has been going on recently.

Commenting on the president’s personnel policy over the past year,
Alizada compared it to the rules of the Weakest Link TV show. “As a
rule, those who did not suit other team members were ousted from the
ruling team.” He cited the dismissal of National Security Minister
Namiq Abbasov as an example. “The replacement of the professional cheka
(Soviet secret police) member with an Interior Ministry employee
clearly shows what the authorities are interested in. They are
interested solely in having a monopoly on money and hence on power.

“At the same time, the situation around the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict
remains unchanged. A stride backward was made in people’s respect for
their government. This happened despite the purely external signs of
prosperity that was possible thanks to oil money. The past year was in
no way different from previous years. The president was quite sincere
saying on many occasions that he would continue his father’s line. And
he kept his word. The president is persistently enforcing the ideology
of Heydarism, posting his father’s portraits everywhere. The goal is
to idolize the ex-president. This finally points to the authorities’
lack of ideology.”

Alizada said that the president had signed several pardoning decrees
in the past year. “These steps were taken under external pressure
from international structures.”

The authorities have been imitating creating new jobs over the
past year. “Despite everything, people are trying to survive and
are doing something independently.”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress