Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct. 26 /Trend, M.Aliyev/
Trend interviews Deputy Chairman and Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), Ali Ahmedov.
Trend: How do you assess the election campaign in Azerbaijan?
Ali Ahmedov: The pre-election campaign continues. I believe that the pre-election atmosphere is quite perceptibly felt in Azerbaijan. It is testified by the fact that most of parties in Azerbaijan run for the upcoming parliamentary elections - the Central Election Commission has registered candidates from more than 30 parties. This shows the great interest of parties, involved in politics and desiring to be represented in parliament, in the elections. On the other hand, I want to mention that in general the society displays a great interest in the elections. The evidence of this is the scale of pre-election campaign of candidates, as well as the interest of the citizens and the majority of the voters in who will be presented in the upcoming parliamentary elections. It is possible that the different structures at the level of citizens talk about not-so-great attention to the elections, but at meetings held by me with the voters, I have observed that the interest is high enough. That is, if to look from the position of citizens and voters, we can confirm the high activity of the campaign. If to approach from the position of work conducted by the Government of Azerbaijan for the election campaign, then we can say that the election campaign is held under the law, the conditions prepared for its fair conduct. We can say that the elections are held normally, within the law, in accordance with the requirements of the Electoral Code of Azerbaijan, as well as in the atmosphere and forms that help organize the pre-election race.
Q: At what level is the campaigning process of NAP? How the party implements election campaign? Will NAP hold mass actions, which we observed in the past elections?
A: As you know, the New Azerbaijan Party has nominated its candidates in most constituencies, who have been registered. We are conducting meetings with voters within the election campaign, in accordance with the program previously determined by us. The main goal set by us during the campaign is to meet voters and present our program to their attention. In this connection, I would like to note a very important feature of election tactics in 2010. It is the principle of campaigning 'from door to door' widely used by each candidate from the NAP. "Using such tactics is primarily aimed at achieving the goal, set by me. It is impossible to reach all voters through mass actions. And thus, firstly through mass actions, we can not establish the necessary communication with the voters, secondly - we can not present our message to them, thirdly - we can not precisely know the opinion of voters on the candidates nominated by us.
We see the way to solve these problems in using the principle of campaigning 'from door to door' and therefore, our candidates prefer to meet with a majority of voters in districts. If the candidate is physically unable to meet all the voters, this work is conducted by authorized representatives of candidates. I think that, applying this principle, we can establish direct communication with an even greater number of voters.
Today, we do not see a necessity to hold mass actions. People also prefer to a form of direct communication with the candidates, and we can clearly see this at our meetings with them. However, if we would feel that any mass actions are necessary, then we can use this form. On the other hand, I want to note that the emotional preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections and emotional involvement of NAP supporters in this process is quite satisfactory, and in this regard so far, we see no need to hold mass actions.
Another very important goal of our campaign is to present, explain our electoral platform and its provisions to the voters and form positive views of voters. We are convinced that the fate of the election is formed only and only by voters and their opinions. In this regard, to achieve our goals it needs to familiarize voters with our program and present to them a sincere form of our intentions to serve the people of Azerbaijan as a whole, and specifically the voters. I think that we can achieve our goals in this regard.
In general, going on this campaign as a ruling party, we are based and refer to measures, conducted since the last parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan on landscaping, construction, development programs and their results. We believe that the great faith of the Azerbaijani citizens in President Ilham Aliyev's politics, the high assessment obtained as a result of the achievements of this policy are the most reliable and most powerful resource in the general election campaign of the New Azerbaijan Party. The authority of the President and respect for him are based on the success of the party, led by him, during the election campaign. We clearly see this in the process of our campaign. A number of problems, which voters voiced during our meetings in various constituencies during the election campaign in 2005, are not voiced by voters in 2010, because these problems have been solved. And of course, all these - the programs implemented to eliminate unemployment, the realization of programs for socio-economic development of regions, testify the liquidation of a number of problems that existed in 2005. And this is the main factor of the positive attitude of voters towards the NAP as the ruling party and candidates nominated by it.
Q: Opposition candidates accuse the NAP candidates of that they use upgrading work, conducted in the country, for their propaganda...
A: It is clear that in their election tactics, our opponents from the opposition are trying to cast shadow on the activities of the NAP. In particular, they try to connect the work, conducted in the country, with the election campaign and regard it as an administrative resource. The NAP is the ruling party of Azerbaijan, and therefore, naturally, running for the elections, on the one hand the party gives a report on works done, on the other side, explains to voters its program based on what will be done in the future. If the NAP would not report to the voters about policies pursued by the authorities and its results from 2005 to 2010, then in the upcoming elections, our candidates would not be able to explain the reason why voters should vote just for them. Speaking before the voters and trying to justify the need of voting just for us, first of all, we talk about what work has been done by the Azerbaijani authorities in this period, primarily from 2005 to the present day. This practice is used all over the world - the ruling party refers to the work carried out during the past period, thus, trying to prove that voters once again have to vote for it. Definitely, all these are an attempt of our opponents to discredit the campaign of NAP. Our candidates do not appropriate the achievements and do not intend to do so. But each of our candidates is proud and pleased to say that these successes have been achieved due to the political power of the NAP.
Q: The interim reports of the PACE and OSCE observation mission have reflected some recommendations. It is noted here that the candidates were given very little free air time. In addition, the election campaign takes place with the absence of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition...
A: First of all, we, as a NAP, positively accept any recommendation that will serve the development and improvement of democracy and the electoral practices in the country. We approach these proposals with respect. So, those proposals available to be implemented will be carried out in Azerbaijan in future. However, if malicious ideas are sounded, then it is not necessary to pay attention to them.
I totally disagree with that the free air time is little. The time on Public television was given much more than it was in all previous elections in the country. Given that more than 700 candidates have been registered in Azerbaijan and four minutes have been provided for each of them, it is 50 hours. 50 hours of free airtime have never been provided in Azerbaijan.
With regards to the participation of individual political parties in the debates during the campaign, I believe that despite the advisory nature, this proposal wrongly reflects the realities of practice for the elections in Azerbaijan. Firstly, the election campaign in Azerbaijan is held in single-seat electoral districts. Secondly, besides NAP, no party was able to join the campaign as a unified organization. In this case, a voter can find the answer to the question, whom to vote in a single-seat electoral district, during the debates between individual candidates.
The debates, conducted between the parties, can not resolve the question to which candidate give preference. Inter-party debates can be effective if the campaign is conducted with the participation of parties and party lists. This practice does not justify itself in Azerbaijan, where single-seat electoral system is introduced. As a minimum, because these debates can not help voters identify their opinion on specific district. Conducting debates in the form in which they are now conducted is aimed at covering the needs of voters to identify the name of their candidate.
Q: Some candidates, abusing the free air time, insult other candidates. Your attitude towards this and the message to such candidates...
A: Unfortunately, in some cases, the televised debates are not held as an intellectual competition, but in the form of the primitive cues and hassle. Perhaps this testifies that some people accidentally participate in the campaign. Those who want to be represented in parliament should at least feel a responsibility before 40,000 voters in each district. Participation of people, who for a long time could not find job, have not brought any benefits to society, in the elections is irresponsible and disrespect to voters. Anyone who wants to be represented in parliament must at least justify the confidence of 40,000 voters and prove that he/she is worthy for this with his/her life experiences, service to the community, spiritual and moral values and qualities.