Imdad Alizade, Trend Commentator
After the October presidential elections, a new political situation aroused in Azerbaijan which necessitates regulation of activities of parties, their role in society, relations of parties with state in the current situation in line with international standards under a new law.
The Law on Political Parties was adopted in Azerbaijan in 1992. The law is one of first laws, adopted after the country's withdrawal from the Soviet empire and announcement of independence. Changes, which took place within last 16 years, created necessity to inject changes into the Law on Political Parties because of serious shortages in the law. The only issue, where positions of the authorities and opposition coincide with each other, is new consideration of the law.
First, the law does not include mechanisms to solve other problems of political parties except a state registration. The problems include financing of parties by state, providing with premises, methods to solve problems of parties with state registration who do not function at the moment, presence of obligation for parties to participate in elections, as well as low quotas (1,000 people) on people's number, which is required to establish a party.
According to the Ministry of Justice, 52 parties have been officially registered. However, some of them, except the ruling New Azerbaijan Party and some opposition parties, do not take part in political processes, do not join elections, do not have any addresses, do not make public their activities. Issues, such as expedience to preserve registration of these parties, still outstand.
The Law does not clarify an issue to finance parties, as well. Financial sources of parties are not known in Azerbaijan. Therefore, parties do not present any reports on their financial sources, expenses (except the ruling New Azerbaijan Party) to public. The Law does not demand to make such reports. However, transparency of financial sources of parties and their annual report for the public is too important from the point of view of transparency and national security (to prevent financing of parties by foreign forces, which have interests in Azerbaijan, secret sources, groups, which illegally earn millions of money to ensure their interest through it).
Parties are financed by the public budget in many countries all over the world. However, there is no any unified mechanism in the world experience. Here, basically, gained votes and participation of political organizations in elections, particularly, in the parliamentary elections are taken into consideration. An issue to finance parties by the public budget is solved too easily in countries, where proportional elections system is being used in the parliamentary elections. This is applied to parties, which gain a seat in the parliament. Active role in society, ensuring political activity, elimination of their financial dependence on foreign forces and financing of political organizations from the public budget are necessary factors from the point of view of development. At present this issue is more topical and logical in Azerbaijan, because democracy of the country is young and parties' active role is necessary in its development, as well as in formation of alternative political forces in society. It requires existence of powerful parties, which function permanently and transparently.
Today increasing economic opportunities of Azerbaijan and growth of budget allows government to finance parties. The funds are allocated from the public budget for non-governmental organizations. Thus, about AZN 1.5mln was allocated in 2008 and AZN 2.8mln in 2009. As many as AZN 1mln is expected to be allocated for media for the first time in 2009. Political parties should be treated in the same way.
The results of parties in elections should be taken into consideration while allocating funds for parties and parties winning certain amount of votes should be rendered financial support. It is not known yet whether results of presidential, parliamentary or municipal elections will be taken into consideration.
Azerbaijan is a state with presidential form of government. Besides, parliamentary elections are held in accordance with a majority system. Therefore, participation in presidential or parliamentary elections should be taken into consideration. For example, parties winning 3% of votes (3%-5% is required to win a seat in parliament in line with proportional system) can be rendered financial support from budget.
The other major problem that Azerbaijani parties face is premises. The current law does not stipulate anything on this issue. Majority of opposition parties do not have premises. However, authorities do not agree with them and say the law does not include such an article. The courts have already examined several appeals in this respect. The oppositionists, who can not win case, appeal to the European Court on Human Rights. Taking such matters to the European Court can create headache for Azerbaijani government. The new law should throw a light to this issue in order to put an end to these disputes: Is government responsible to provide parties with premises? If yes, then which parties?
According to current law, in order to be founded, the party is required to have a membership of 1,000 people. However, it is not known what does this figure imply and on which criteria it is based on. Given the fact that Azerbaijan has a population of 8.5mln, this quota set for parties is very low. Usually, those who want to create a party, fulfill this demand and assemble their relatives and acquaintances. Can this party be considered political organization?
We think the number of members required to set up a party should be increased by several times given at least the factor of voters. According to law, a citizen can me member of any party after he/she turns 18, the age in which citizens gain right to vote. For example, the number of members required for the establishment of the party should be increased at least to 1% of total number of voters. And parties must have offices in half of region and cities of the country. It will help develop and strengthen parties and prevent creation of pseudo-political organizations. New Law on Political Parties is needed to be adopted in order to throw a light to these issues.
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