Azerbaijan 2008: Free citizens, liberal economy, responsible state: department head at Azerbaijani President’s Office

Politics Materials 4 March 2008 18:39 (UTC +04:00)
Azerbaijan 2008: Free citizens, liberal economy, responsible state: department head at Azerbaijani President’s Office

Baku, Azerbaijan, 4 March / Trend corr. A Gasimova/ The contemporary world order is characterized by some mutually complementary factors, Elnur Aslanov, the chairman of the political analyses and information provision department of the Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, writes in his article published in Turkish daily Today's Zaman.

On the one hand, Roland Robertson, one of the founding fathers of globalization, said in 1984 that it is a pervasive worldwide integration which encompasses all spheres of human life. On the other hand, it can be explained by the significant transformation of socio-cultural realities we live in. The third factor is the perception of the notion of "freedom" by individuals in its new form and special understanding, the article reads.

According to the Azerbaijani analyst, nowadays, these three factors give all members of the international community a possibility to build unprecedented worldwide economic and financial structures. It brings the understanding of modern and post-modern into our lives by making our lives dependent upon information and communications technologies to the highest extent. In general, we have started to contemplate differently friendships and a whole set of other traditional values, such as those reflected currently in smileys within communication programs such as texting and e-mail. Unfortunately, we are obliged to ascertain that precedents are emerging alongside a new understanding of freedom when various externally made scenarios are being realized for the sake of freedom in society: However, each of these elements is presented as the reflection of the aspirations of any man to have more freedom.

In the conditions of such complicated structures of world order, there are several states, all former Soviet republics. Their fortune has made them define their own place in the gears of history and to prove their right to exist almost two decades ago.

Having gained independence in 1991 and having passed through a short period of anarchy and internal disorder, Azerbaijan has sought to determine a national development strategy in the context of many values, which became determining factors of the prospective development of the nation. First, the development of the state is seen as fully independent inside internal and external discourse. Second, an establishment of stability should lead to the formation of a stable environment for the development of free entrepreneurship and business. Third, the formation of a stable statehood has become necessary since an effective development strategy was found, a strategy now reflected in the desire to build an open and democratic system. It should be done through the prospective of national development, the formation of a stable civil society where each of its members perceives Aristotle's Truth, namely that "the state exists for the sake of making its citizens happy."

Stable foundation

A full decade in the history of Azerbaijan -- the years of 1993-2003 -- has become the period of formation of a stable foundation of economic development in the country which should create a stage-by-stage change in the psychology of an Azerbaijani citizen. During these years, the authorities understood clearly that it would be difficult to speak about any democratic transformations without visible economic growth and sufficient welfare of every single citizen, and in particular, the formation of a civil society within a country which had previously been part of a totalitarian system. The basics of this policy have been based upon the realization of this very concept, reflected in the thesis "economy over politics." This truth explains Azerbaijan's successful modern development, which has succeeded in drastically decreasing the level of poverty over the last five years from 49 percent to 16 percent, increasing its recently disclosed state budget of $1 billion up to $12 billion and ensuring jobs for more that 600,000 fellow citizens. During recent years, 1,200 new schools were built, dozens of new factories opened and the construction of global transportation projects were initiated.

It can be argued and said that these are mere figures, but they truly form the basis of a successful economic development and create foundations for a step-by-step liberalization. The very core basis of this truth can be seen in the development of such global projects as the "Country of the Century," the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway connection. It is no secret that more than regional cooperation and geo-economy define the success of any of these projects. Miraculous economic successes observed in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, partially in China and notably in Turkey are explained primarily by each country's aspirations to ensure the well-being of its citizens. This is the priority of a well-established policy and the basis of effective statehood because financial prosperity causes inventive freethinking, impacts human beings as well as subsequently changes the society and the state in question.

In recent years it has become obvious that Azerbaijan's economy is gradually and purposefully accumulating liberal values, which ensure more freedom. However, it is not only freedom that is our priority. We strive to make every citizen understand his/her responsibility to the state. It is indeed in such a state that a person will feel safe and secure. Our strategy is based upon this simple truth.

However, it should be noted, unfortunately, that our goals and ideals are not always understood by everyone. Often times we see that the ideas of democracy are replaced by simple geopolitics or, to say it more precisely, by geo-economic interests. In such cases democracy is represented as a basis for discussion, but, in reality, the true intentions of the promoters of democracy remain the same as when it had been attempted to be implemented by many superpowers; namely, through expansionism. While offering democracy as a remedy from all evils, a medicament to recover from any illness, some people forget that democracy is not something acquired quickly nor is it an immediately realized process. Full democratization and a change in the mass consciousness require years and generations before democracy and its values start to be perceived as different from what is currently in place. Democracy is not bred in some environment as a substitute. It requires time for adaptation and confirmation in this or that playground. In these days, this problem is a topic of discussion not only for Azerbaijan, but also for most post-Soviet states. As far as Turkey is concerned, we see aspirations to impose various democratic models which are allegedly understood as "gateways" to the civil community of European states.

The promoters of democracy occasionally forget that democracy in every society requires its own specifications or periods of establishment. In this case, the individual approach is important. It does not mean that the same democratic forms should be in every territory in accordance with strictly formed scenarios. Not at all. The issue is explained by the fact that society should approach democratic development by itself. It should be done via economic development and by the changing of the economic structure -- as Roosevelt noted, "Needs and freedom are incompatible." For this reason, the core of democratic transformation should be formed with the basis of a stable economic foundation, which creates prerequisites for democratic consolidation.

During the last few years we have witnessed a global wave of democratization. We see how places like Afghanistan and Iraq are "being democratized." It is now Iran's turn and maybe that of other sovereign nations located in the East that are pivotal for international relations. In the conditions of such unilateralism there is a fair question about the meaning of democracy. At this juncture, it is impossible to overlook Winston Churchill's well-known words: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

2008 is an important period of historical development for Azerbaijan. In this year the country will elect a head of state. This is the country's sixth presidential election. Every such election being some kind of maturity test elevates democratic development of the country into a higher and more qualitative level of democratic transformation. It is absolutely natural that the 2008 presidential elections will become the basis of the intensification of Azerbaijan's democratic development. Political pluralism and the increasing importance of nongovernmental organizations in the life of society create the necessary basis to make democracy in this country more stable.

But it should be recalled that democracy is a complicated process. It is not only about casting a vote into a ballot box on election day. This is the pathway that has to be passed by bearing in mind the responsibilities which rest on the shoulders of the state and the citizen. The success of future endeavors depends mainly on how everyone understands his or her role. Today, it can be firmly stated that Azerbaijan is taking steps to this end by relying upon three factors of a national developmental strategy: free citizens, a liberal economy and a responsible state. It is indeed these three factors that are able to ensure the future success of the realized strategy of national development, Aslanov concluded.