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IS THERE GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN AZERBAIJAN?
[ARM]     [RUS]     [ENG]

IS THERE GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN AZERBAIJAN?

Vahram ATANESYAN

 The day after the summit of the Turkic-speaking countries, Ilham Aliyev convened a meeting with the ministers of the government's economic bloc and the newly appointed prime minister and made a sensational statement. Accordingly, "some members of the government are spying on others, involving some information resources, which is unacceptable." He made the statement in the context that "there are forces in the world opposing economic reforms." If Aliyev has spoken to the ministers of the economic bloc on such a delicate subject, it is to be assumed that the heads of other departments are impeding the reforms and spreading fraud against the representatives of the president's economic team. Who does Aliyev mean?
The interior minister of Azerbaijan has recently changed. A few days ago, Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov was ousted and was replaced by Ali Asadov, the assistant to the President on Economic Affairs. Suspicions of obstructing reform thus fall on the two ministers of force - Defense and Emergency Situations. The first of them is a relative of the Aliyev family, the son-in-law of Heydar Aliyev's sister, and has been considered one of the most loyal people in the ruling family since Heydar Aliyev was almost exiled in Nakhichevan. In exchange for that faithful service, Kamaledin Heydarov, who was a regular employee of the city fire service in Nakhichevan, was appointed Minister of Emergency Situations nearly a quarter of a century ago.
The Azerbaijani exile press estimates Heydarov's ability to be several billion dollars. He is one of the most corrupt figures in Aliyev's government. It is not ruled out that Heydarov is really opposed to the Aliyev program of reforms and some liberalization of the economy, trying to preserve his own business structures. Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov is also corrupt. The Azeri opposition has criticized him for importing scrap metal from Russia under the name of modern weapons for billions of dollars. These deals, of course, cannot be realized without the supreme authority and the knowledge of Ilham Aliyev himself, but politics has its unwritten rules, and sometimes colleagues often find themselves in different camps when their fundamental interests conflict.
A long time ago, there were publications in the Azerbaijani expulsion media, with the general focus being on Defense Minister Hasanov trying to gain public support by propaganda for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to serve it to his political ambitions. This is why some explain Aliyev's decision to appoint Hasanov's longtime rival, Azerbaijani national hero Rovshan Akperov as commander of the Baku garrison. The point is that by appointing the commander of the Baku garrison as a military man devoted to the ruling family, Ilham Aliyev has actually insured himself against the danger of a state coup. This, though very close to reality, in our opinion, nevertheless is an assumption. And the accusation made by some of the members of the government at Ilham Aliyev during the working meeting is already a reality.
What steps will Aliyev take to provide his team of economic reformers with more free-living conditions? Will there be noisy resignations? It seems to us that Aliyev will not take such drastic steps. There are serious internal political divisions in Azerbaijan. The traditional opposition is trying to reunite its forces and prepare for next year's parliamentary elections. There is a real danger that those removed from power may join the opposition and become its financial and propaganda pillar. Realizing this threat, it seems that Ilham Aliyev will not go to the massacre, will be satisfied with the exhortations, will use non-public leverage of influence to convince the public that he has a consolidated political team that shares the same values.
What will be the result of these steps? Anyhow, the Azerbaijani society is aware that there are wings competing with each other within the government. The opposition is well aware of the situation. The crisis is obvious, and the possibilities for resolving it are limited. And the parliamentary election, as they say, is already "breathing at Aliyev’s back". The most logical situation in this case is the wave of public protest. The opposition is preparing for a rally, which will probably come to some conclusions about Azerbaijan's domestic political developments.