Weekly political digest (11.08- 16.08.2008)

Official Chronicle

On 11 August a ceremony of awarding sportsmen, who earned medals in the competitions of judkas in the weight category of 73 kilograms at XXIX Olympic Games in Beijing. The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev watched the competitions and participated in the ceremony of awarding. The representative of the International Olympic Committee, Reynaldo Gonzalez Lopez, presented medal to Azerbaijani judka Elnur mammadli, winner of the competitions of judkas in the weight category of 73 kilograms, and also to sportsmen, who occupied the 2nd and 3rd places.

On 13 August the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev sent a letter of congratulation to the President of Pakistan Parviz Musharraf on the country`s holiday, Independence Day. "Present level of Azerbaijan-Pakistan relations is satisfactory. I am sure that, due to our efforts, all-round cooperation of our friendly countries will expand and contribute to welfare of our nations," said President. Azerbaijani Leader expressed his best wishes to Pakistani counterpart and wished stability to the people of Pakistan.

President Ilham Aliyev has sent a congratulatory letter to South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak as his country celebrates Liberation Day. In his message, President Aliyev described the Azerbaijan-South Korea relations as successfully developing. The Azerbaijani leader expressed confidence that bilateral ties between the two countries would continue enhancing. President Ilham Aliyev wished Lee Myung-bak strong health, and the people of South Korea peace and prosperity.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has returned to Baku from Beijing where he watched the Olympic Games' opening ceremony. The President and his family members, including first lady Mehriban Aliyeva stepped off the plane together with Azerbaijan's Olympic medalists - champion Elnur Mammadli and silver winners Rovshan Bayramov and Vitaly Rahimov. A large group of fans and family members of the athletes with flowers in their hands packed the Heydar Aliyev International Airport to give a triumphant welcome to the President and the country's Olympic heroes. The Presidential couple posed for photographs with the athletes and their family members.

On 15 August, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received the American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris. Effective development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the United States was mentioned at the meeting, the U.S. Jewish community's important role in further development and strengthening of the relations was stressed. At the meeting underscored was creation of all conditions for free operation of the Jewish community residing in Azerbaijan.

Elections

Presidentuial electiopns in Azerbaijan will take place on 15 October

The opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) officially nominated Gulamhuseyn Alibayli, former chairman of party's Supreme Assembly, for country's presidential post. "I have made the final decision on participation in the presidential elections. I will submit my documents to the Central Elections Commission (CEC) on 11 August," Alibayli said to Trend news on 11 August. PFPA, which represents the opposition, is a member and co-founder of the Azadlig political bloc. Abulfaz Elchibey, the late Azerbaijani ex-president, was the chairman of the party till 2000. Ali Karimli, a former MP and secretary of state, has been chairing the PFPA since 2000. Allibeyli was taking senior positions at the PFPA and is known as Karimli's close supporter. He was an MP of the Azerbaijani Parliament from 2000 to 2005 and a member of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Alibeyli resigned from the party last week. He refused to explain reasons of his resignation and said that he would be engaged in independent political activity. Alibeyli said he would participate in the presidential elections till the end. He is holding consultations with the persons who have the same views with him and will use their advice.

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) has completed the signature collecting campaign for support and registration of Presidential candidature of the current State Head of Azerbaijan, Chairman of the Party Ilham Aliyev. On 11 August, more than 40,000 signatures collected were presented to the Central Election Commission, NAP press service told Trend . The press service stated that the signature collecting campaign attended by nearly 1,000 activists of the NAP was accompanied with the intensive activity of citizens. The voters stated they support Ilham Aliyev's presidential candidature. 

The Central Elections Commission of Azerbaijan (CEC) urged the public to closely participate in specifying lists of voters. "Specifying lists of voters will be possible till the elections day. Everybody should actively participate in this regard notwithstanding their political position," Mazahir Panahov, the chairman of the CEC, briefed the media on 12 August. The CEC registered 4,834,584 voters. More than 4,600,000 people were registered in the lists of voters in 2007. A total of 52% of registered voters are women and 48% are men. According to Panahov, about million and half spelling amendments were made to the lists of voters. So far, signature lists of 11 people, who want to participate in the presidential elections, were received and one man submitted his documents to the CEC for participation in the presidential elections, the CEC's chairman said.

The Azerbaijani Central Elections Commission (CEC) approved five presidential contenders' authorized representatives. The CEC confirmed representatives of the chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan Gudrat Hasanguliyev, the chairman of the Umid Party Igbal Agazade, the chairman of the Muasir Musavat Party Hafiz Hajiyev, the chairman of the Azerbaijani Liberal-Democratic Party Fuad Aliyev and the chairman of the Greens Party Mais Gulaliyev. At the meeting, it was decided to establish Observation and Revision Service at the CEC. The Service will observe utilization of the allocated funds for the elections committees. The Service includes representatives of the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Taxes, the National Bank, the Chamber of Accounts and CEC's three members. The presidential elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 15 October. So far, the CEC has confirmed authorized representatives of the current President Ilham Aliyev, who the chairman of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party.

On 13 August, 'Elections 2008' Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) coalition was established to increase public activity in the upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan. Vahid Gazi, the chairman of Inam (Faith) Pluralism Centre, Osman Gunduz, the director of the Multimedia Information Systems and Technologies Centre, Umid Rahimoglu, the chairman of the International Eurasia Media Fund and a member of the Press Council's Board, and Azar Hasrat, the chairman of KASKFEN, founded the coalition. The presidential elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 15 October. So far, 12 presidential candidates have submitted their documents to the Central Elections Commission to join the presidential elections. On 13 August, founders stated at a news conference that they were against some opposition parties' boycotting the presidential elections. "In such difficult condition, it is important to increase people's elections activity and to involve civil people in observation of the elections," Gazi, coordinator of the coalition, said. The coalition will organize public observation in the presidential elections and hold monitoring of the elections process, popularize the reports on its work at local and international level.

On 14 August two more people in Azerbaijan submitted their documents to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to participate in the presidential elections, a source at CEC told Trend . Those who submitted their documents are consultant of Medeniyyet (Culture) newspaper Teymur Guliyev and editor-in-chief of Expertiza newspaper Suleyman Guliyev.

The Central Elections Commission of Azerbaijan (CEC) officially confirmed the current State Head Ilham Aliyev as Presidential candidate at a meeting held on 16 August. The presidential elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 15 October. Making a speech at the meeting, the CEC Head Mazahir Panahov said that the governing New Azerbaijan Party submitted 46,750 signatures, with 46,203 valid and other part - invalid. According to the legislation of Azerbaijan, at least 40,000 signatures should be presented to the CEC for confirmation of Presidemtial candidature.

Azerbaijani opposition Umid party has collected 40,000 electorates' signatures required to register a contender. "At present, experts work over collected signatures and the documents will be submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) soon," Igbal Agazade, a presidential contender from Umid party, told Trend on 15 August. Azerbaijan will host the presidential elections on 15 October 2008. At present, there are 14 presidential contenders. Gulamhuseyn Alibeyli, ex-chairman of the Supreme Assembly of Popular Front Party, Teymur Guliyev, advisor of the Madaniyyat newspaper, and Suleyman Guliyev, chief editor of the Expertise newspaper, have recently submitted their documents to CEC.

The Azerbaijani Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) have been determined, which will hold exit-poll in the presidential elections to be held on 15 October. Exit-poll will be held by the coalition of the 'Free, transparent and fair elections', which presentation was held in Baku on 15 August. 'For civil society' NGO, the Democratic Elections Centre, the Political Technology and Innovation Centre, the Azerbaijan's Regional Development Centre and the Intellect NGO formed the coalition. At the spring session the Azerbaijani Parliament made a decision enabling the local NGOs to hold exit-poll. During a news conference, Salman Vilayatoglu, the head of the Intellect NGO, said that the coalition was established to activate voters and contribute to hold fair and transparent elections. He also said that the Coalition will observe the presidential elections in 70% of polling stations.

Vahdat Azerbaijani opposition party took a decision at the meeting of the Supreme Assembly to nominate the candidature of the Azerbaijani incumbent President Ilham Aliyev.

Azerbaijan will host the presidential elections on 15 October 2008. Till 2006, Vahdat party headed by former chairman of Azerbaijani Supreme Court and MP Tahir Karimli, had kept to the opposition course. At present, Vahdat supports the political course of the authorities. On 2 August, Aliyev's candidature was officially nominated to the presidential post in the meeting of the New Azerbaijani party (NAP). So far, Aliyev's candidature has been nominated by Ana Vatan and Social Welfare parties.  Furthermore, Aliyev's candidature was nominated by the Azerbaijani Trade Union and Red Half Moon Society.

The Central Elections Commission of Azerbaijan (CEC) officially confirmed the current State Head Ilham Aliyev as Presidential candidate at a meeting held on 16 August. The presidential elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 15 October. Making a speech at the meeting, the CEC Head Mazahir Panahov said that the governing New Azerbaijan Party submitted 46,750 signatures, with 46,203 valid and other part - invalid. According to the legislation of Azerbaijan, at least 40,000 signatures should be presented to the CEC for confirmation of Presidemtial candidature.

The Central Elections Commission  of Azerbaijan (CEC) confirmed the presidential candidature of Gulamhuseyn Alibayli, a former chairman of Supreme Assembly of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), at a meeting held on 16 August. Alibayli resigned from the party on 8 August. He refused to explain details of his resignation and said that he would be engaged in political activity independently. Then Alibayli nominated his candidature for the presidential post.

Foreign policy

Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has simplified visa regime from Georgia to Azerbaijan, Khazar Ibrahim, the representative of Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in the news- conference on 11 August. According to the representative, hundreds of foreigners came to Azerbaijan from Georgia for recent 2 - 3 days. Azerbaijani Ministry takes this step due to the military actions on the territory of unrecognized South Ossetia. Ibrahim said that the Azerbaijani Embassy in Georgia works in its usual regime.

Russia does not put the Georgian territorial integrity under a doubt, Vasiliy Istratov, the Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, said to journalists on 11 August, commenting on the recent military actions in unrecognized South Ossetia. According to Istratov, about 80% of South Ossetian population has Russian identifications and Russia did not have another way but to assist its citizens. At present there is no electricity and drinking water in Tskhinvali and the town's infrastructure has been destroyed, the Russian Ambassador said. "Restoration of Tskhinvali will take a lot of time and funds," Istratov said. According to the Ambassador, official Baku's position on the South Ossetia events is clear for Russia and has been submitted to the relevant bodies of Russia. "Situation in South Ossetia will negatively affect all conflicts in the region. Georgia always avoided signing of an agreement on non-use of military forces," Istratov said. At present, the Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan functions in normal regime and there are no reasons to change schedule of the Embassy, Istratov said.

There are not Azerbaijanis amongst sufferers as the result of the armed Georgian- Russian conflict in South Ossetia, Namig Aliyev, Azerbaijani Ambassador in Georgia, said via a telephone from Tbilisi. According to Russian media, there are dead and wounded amongst Russian peacekeepers. Georgian side reports about 20 servicemen died Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated that there are thousands of t dead and wounded amongst civilians. The Russian Air Forces intensively bombed Marneuli and Bolnisi cities of Georgia and military bases near Tbilisi. As a result, four people die. Russian Air Forces bombed military airports near Tbilisi, there are sufferers. According to Azerbaijani Ambassador, no information about Azerbaijanis suffered in Georgia has been delivered. Aliyev said the Georgian part of the Baku- Tbilisi- Ceyhan oil pipeline may be damaged as the result of the conflict.

Number of people trying to pass to Azerbaijan from Georgia has not decreased, Spokesperson for Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Khazar Ibrahim said to Trend on 12 August. "A large number of people are staying at the Georgia-Azerbaijan border. But I do not have the specified figures about the number of those who have already passed," he said. According to Ibrahim, the number of people passing from Georgia to Azerbaijan has not decreased since yesterday.

Azerbaijan has always supported the territorial integrity of Georgia, Azerbaijan's Deputy Foreign Minister Hafiz Pashayev said, commenting on the armed conflict in South Ossetia. Large-scale military operations commenced in the unrecognized South Ossetia republic in the early morning of 8 August. Georgian Army entered Tskhinvali. Later Russian troops occupied Tskhinvali and forced back the Georgian servicemen. According to Pashayev, should the conflict result in a serious threat for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipe operation, Azerbaijan will be searching for new ways to export its oil to the world markets. Commenting on Georgia's decision to leave the CIS, Pashayev said there is a relevant procedure for this purpose, which is being currently discussed at the Government and the Parliament.

Political movements

According to the information by Nariman Huseynov delivered to Trend , chairman of the Shamkir regional organization of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), all 165 members of the regional organization of PFPA have resigned, and would continue their political activity in the Political Way of Azerbaijan movement. Statement's authors said that the wrong policy of the party leaders caused beginning from 2000 thousands of members have left the party and lost its support amongst population. PFPA leader like many other opposition parties satisfies his cooperative interest rather than to collect its unsatisfied electorates. Members of the Shamakha regional organization of PFPA explained their transition to the Political Way of Azerbaijan with the organization tries to form a new opposition centre. Hasan Karimov, the Deputy Chairman of PFPA, told Trend that the information about the members of the Shamkir regional organization  left the party do not represent facts. "Moreover, Bilal Mammadov is the chairman of the Shamkir regional organization of the party, but not Nariman Huseynov," Karimov said. Shamsaddin Rahimli, the Deputy Chairman of the Political Way of Azerbaijan, told Trend that his party had approved the statement. "Leaders of the party have not been yet informed about the regional organizations which shows they have no interest in these organizations. As a result, PFPA will lose all of its members," Rahimli said. Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan is the member and co-founder of the Azadlig bloc. Ex-President Abulfaz Elchibay was the founder and chairman of the party until 2000. Since 2000, former MP Ali Karimli has been the chairman of the party. Mirnizami Ahmadov, the chairman of Jalilabad regional organization, and Gulamhuseyn Alibayli, the chairman of the Supreme Assembly, left the party after PFPA, which is united in the Azadlig bloc, made a decision to boycott the presidential elections.

The Azerbaijani authorities believe there some doubtful moments in financing of the country's political parties. "We and our society worry about the doubtful moments in the financing of political parties," Ali Hasanov, the head of the Public & Political Department of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, said to journalists on 14 August. There are 52 registered political parties in Azerbaijan. According to Hasanov, taking into consideration the doubtful moments, political parties could be financed by the state to prevent the doubts. "There is the practice in the world to finance political parties through the state budget. The idea has been suggested in Azerbaijan and is being discussed. Political parties can be financed by the Azerbaijani state," Hasanov said. According to Hasanov, it is an acceptable version to finance political parties through the state budget.

Azerbaijani opposition Umid Party considers that non-participation of most opposition parties in the presidential elections cannot cause negative response amongst international organizations. I dare say that international organizations will not state that the elections took place in non-alternative conditions," Igbal Agazade, presidential contender from Umid party, told Trend . So far, 12 contenders have submitted their documents to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to participate in the presidential elections. Three opposition parties (Popular Front Party, Liberal Party and citizen and Development Party), which is united in the Azadlig bloc, and Classical Popular Front Party made a decision to boycott the upcoming presidential elections. The Open Society, Musavat, Civil Solidarity, Democratic, Great establishment, Azadlig parties and Eldar Namazov, head of the Public Forum For the name of Azerbaijan refused to participate in the elections. Parties consider that non-participation in the elections will cause an opinion that the process was held in non-alternative conditions. Agazade said that international organizations hold consultations with Umid regarding the elections. "Perhaps, international organizations will clear their positions regarding the most Azerbaijani opposition parties took a decision not to participate in the elections. However, no statement is expected to be made like neither opposition contender participated in the process due to the elections were held in non-alternative conditions. If someone did not participate in the elections, he cannot say that it took place in non-alternative conditions. I hope that electorate will see me as an alternative candidate. The fact that most opposition parties will not participate in the elections will not affect voters' activity," Agazade stated. Umid party was founded in 1993. In 2002, the Civil Solidarity party joined Umid. Igbal Agazade, chairman of CSP is an MP in the Parliament.

According to the governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), it is incorrect to accuse the government of the lack of strong opposition. "Unfortunately, accusing authorities of the Azerbaijani opposition's weakness became a norm. We believe that the strong authorities should have not strong but efficient opposition," Aydin Mirzazade, a member of the NAP's Political Council, said to Trend on 15 August. The Azerbaijani opposition believes that the authorities are guilty for weakening of this camp recently. Opposition's representatives ground it with absence of normal conditions to realize political activity in the country. According to Mirzazade, the opposition can have small social base, gain few votes, but the opposition should develop efficient programs and constructively criticize the authorities. "At present, efficient opposition of powerful authorities is being formed in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the radical wing has held leading position at the Azerbaijani opposition for a long time. Currently, radical opposition began to pass its point of view to constructive opposition with the European thoughts. The authorities should not be blamed for it. The authorities do not create the opposition. The opposition should function in line with real conditions. Social base of the authorities, of which activity yield positive results, should be great," Mirzazade said and noted that the authorities and opposition together make 100% of potential of society. "The force, which gained trust of more than 50% of people, is in power. Generally, powerful authorities gain 60-70% of votes and gather the social base quickly and the rest becomes the opposition. The presence of the strong opposition at the powerful authorities can create abnormal situation," Mirzazade said and noted that the main reason of the opposition's weakness was not the authorities, but the opposition itself. "Leaders of the Azerbaijani opposition parties even hold meetings with regional organizations in Baku, not going out of their offices. Majority of the opposition has been bureaucratized and sharp necessity aroused to change them into efficient opposition," he said. Heydar Aliyev, the chairman of the Supreme Assembly of Nakhchivan, established the NAP in 1992. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is the current chairman of the governing party, which has been in power for 15 years.

The Azerbaijani opposition Musavat Party stated that the unity of the real opposition parties, which refused to participate in the presidential elections, would be established soon. "Real opposition's cooperation will take place by the elections and will continue after the elections. It will be in the form of coalition or another form, depending on the consultations to be held on the issue," Isa Gambar, the chairman of the Musavat Party, said to Trend on 15 August. The presidential elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 15 October. So far, 14 presidential contenders have submitted their documents to the Central Elections Commission (CEC) to participate in the presidential elections. Azadlig bloc, uniting three opposition parties (Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Liberal Party and Citizen and Development Party), Classical Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Open Society, Musavat, Civil Solidarity, Democratic and Great Establishment parties, as well as Eldar Namazov, the head of Public Forum of For Azerbaijan refused to participate in the elections. Establishment of unity of the parties, which refused to join the elections, has become topical. According to Gambar, different political forces sounded initiatives and claims to create cooperation of the forces, which refused to participate in the elections. Musavat party's position has been sounded on this issue as well. "At the same time, Musavat party exchanged views with different political forces, which will not joint the elections, and the real opposition. Initial exchange of opinions entered the consultation stage. I believe these consultations will lead to definite results," the chairman of Musavat party said, noting that new the cooperation format will be comprehensively examined. "We intend to enable cooperation of different political forces, which refused to joint the elections, in a coordinated form. We intend to realize this work logically," Gambar said. The Musavat Party was established in Baku in October 1911. The Musavat Party's third Congress (Restoration) was held at the Republican Palace in Baku on 7 November in 1992. Gambar was elected the chairman of the Musavat Party as a result of secret voting. Gambar, the chairman of the party, was the speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament (1992-93) and a presidential candidate in the presidential elections held 2003. A total of four MPs represent the party at the parliament.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian armed forces broke ceasefire regime in various directions from 10 to 16 August.

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

Shahriyar Balishev, 19, a soldier in the Azerbaijani National Army, was killed by Armenian sniper in the Kazakh region. Balishev's body was delivered to the Alar village in Jalilabad region to bury. Balishev was drafted to military service from the Military Commissariat in Jalilabad. Azerbaijani Defense Ministry news- service neither approved nor rejected the information.

An Azerbaijani citizen 33-year-old Arzu Eyubov, resident of Gabala region's Zalam village, was taken hostage by Armenian servicemen in February 2008 and released today, Azerbaijan State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons said to Trend on 14 August. According to the State Commission, Eyubov was released at the troops contact line nearby Bala Jafarli village of Azerbaijani Gazakh region. "Hostage's health condition is normal. Release process was mediated by the International Red Cross Committee," State Committee said.

The intermediary role of the OSCE Minsk Group in settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be improved, the American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said at a news conference in Baku on 16 August. "The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was the key issue of discussion during my visit to Baku. We will work to improve the OSCE Minsk Group's mission in settlement of the conflict," he said. According to Harris, his Committee will foster the U.S. Government to pay more attention to the work of the OSCE Minsk Group. "We will work to improve the relations between the United States and Azerbaijan. We will also pay attention to Americans' education to convey the basic knowledge about Azerbaijan to them, to inform the political circles and U.S. presidential contenders of Azerbaijan," Harris said. Harris was visiting Azerbaijan on the invitation of country's President. During his two-day visit he met with President Ilham Aliyev, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and other officials.

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