In recent days, there have been discussions in the media about the restoration of the proportional system in parliamentary elections. Experts and politicians who have been specializing in this field for years say that by restoring the proportional electoral system, the government can increase the role of parties in society, eliminate inertia in the country’s politics, as well as create conditions for wider representation of the opposition in the legislature. In the South Caucasus, both Georgia and Armenia have decided to introduce a proportional electoral system. The majority electoral system in Azerbaijan is still in force and its abolition depends on the will of the government.The application of the electoral system requires amendments to the Constitution. For this, a referendum must be held. Although it may seem difficult to go to a referendum during a pandemic, the recent expansion of these debates and even the voices of pro-government figures and persons with political prominence, who call for a proportional electoral system, suggest that perhaps the government intends to make some changes in this area.Political commentator Nasimi Mammadli answered ASTNA’s questions on the issue.
– Recently, parliamentarians have been voicing their views on the need to change the electoral system. How convincing is it that the government will take this step?
Nasimi Mammadli – First of all, we must note that the most serious problem in our country is related to the elections. The people of Azerbaijan long for democratic elections. Their real election opportunities were taken away. Elections to all elected bodies have gone down in history as elections that are unfair, far from transparent, with gross irregularities and fraud by local and international bodies, without exception.
In reality, the expression “The sole source of state power in the Republic of Azerbaijan shall be vested in the people of Azerbaijan” enshrined in Article 1 of the Constitution is far from its essence. Although the word “elector” is used as a legal term in our country, a citizen does not have the opportunity to “elect”. A citizen is simply a “voter”. The reality is that a citizen is given the “freedom to vote” but the “freedom to elect” is in the hands of the relevant authorities.
Although issues related to changes in election systems and election commissions are regularly raised, no real steps have been taken. The European Court of Human Rights has considered hundreds of complaints about election violations in Azerbaijan and issued positive decisions. Along with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, even the European Court of Human Rights has made relevant recommendations to improve the electoral legislation.
President Ilham Aliyev has made very clear statements on “political reforms” several times since the early presidential election. In fact, there is a serious need for political reforms in our country. The solution to many basic economic, legal, humanitarian, and political problems in the country depends on it. That is why discussions on political reforms are regularly mentioned in society. But it is difficult to say when and what steps the government will take. Because there is no logical sequence in the steps of the government regarding the reconstruction of the political system. It is as if unsystematic, fragmented, chaotic, and cautious attempts are being made. The government is hesitant to start real reforms. It simply thinks that personnel changes can solve the fundamental problems of human rights and freedoms. However, these problems are becoming increasingly intolerable. If we do not have real and credible political reforms now, we will face more serious problems in the future.
The military victory in Karabakh has partially increased the government’s socio-political prestige. In the current political situation, which is now favorable for the government, it is more appropriate to carry out political reforms. However, even if it does not make reforms, there is no pressure from society. Due to the power of law enforcement agencies, socio-political participation in society has been significantly suppressed.
– For years, opinions have been voiced on the re-introduction of the proportional electoral system. But now pro-government people are saying it. Why this issue is on the agenda now. What could be the goal?
– There may be various reasons for voicing this opinion. It is possible that someone already has information about such a plan of the government and it is purposefully discussed. Or by expressing such a need, they want to convince the government to take positive steps in this regard. In my opinion, the main task before the referendum of September 26, 2016, was related to the political and legal fate of the President and the First Vice President. The legal and political regulation of the country’s parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers may be resolved in a new referendum. This is a more sensible time to make amendments to the electoral system.
We must take into account that with the spread of social networks, the government’s ability to control the global and local information environment has significantly weakened. The factors that create and guide public opinion in the country are not subject to the will of the government.
The government erroneously stifled media freedom, did its best to stifle critical voices, dismantled independent civil society institutions, and persecuted opposition political parties. At first glance, it seems that political stability has been achieved in the country. However, an uncontrolled, unmanageable virtual organized network has been formed against the government. At the same time, in real life, there are no officials, influential people and institutions who can easily come out among the dissatisfied people and express the position of the government. Members of municipalities appointed by local executive authorities, deputies appointed by the supreme executive power have become an additional burden for the government in the current real and virtual space. Representatives of all elected bodies do not strengthen the government but instead discredit it. In fact, no one does it on purpose, it’s just that the mechanism of operation of the system has led to such a result. There is not a single organization in the parliament that gives a positive public image to the government and adds socio-political power to its power. The situation among the members of the municipality is even worse. The reason for the power to be cursed the most is those “elected” by it.
Although the majority in parliament belongs to the New Azerbaijan Party, they have little influence in society. The existence of this party is not observed in any public discussion. From the outside, it is impossible to see politically and ideologically prepared supporters of the country’s president in the arena of political competition. Therefore, the government may want to fill this gap by opening the door to ideological and political currents in the formation of parliament, and partially creating opportunities for opposition political thinking. It can also give a partial role to the parliament as one of the centers for the formation of public opinion in the country. The introduction of a proportional electoral system can also reduce external influences on the formation of parliament. In particular, it may be easier to prevent the deputies representing Russia’s interests in our country. At the same time, the organization of citizens around political organizations can be one of the most reliable guarantors of our national security.
– The authorities always claim that there is a multi-party system in Azerbaijan, and thus show that there is a difference of opinion in the country. Do you think there is a multi-party system in Azerbaijan?
– The approach of the Azerbaijani government shows that they perceive the “multi-party” political system as a political system with “many parties”. Having many parties does not mean a “multi-party” system. There can be no pluralistic society in Azerbaijan if the media is not free, if there is no freedom of assembly, if there are restrictions on freedom of association and expression, and most importantly, if there are no democratic elections. Without a pluralistic society, there can be no multi-party system. Do political parties have the role and opportunity in the formation of political consciousness in the country today, in the implementation of public control over government agencies, in the formation of the system of socio-political relations as a whole? Specifically, we can say no! It is impossible to build a “multi-party” political system with all the power of the government concentrated in one hand.
– In such a situation, in the absence of dissent in Azerbaijan, in an environment where parties pursuing different policies are cornered, what will change the application of the proportional electoral system?
-Of course, such difficult and fateful problems cannot be solved just by changing the electoral system. Here, at the most, the government can partially weaken the political pressure on itself. We also observe a certain imitation of democracy in society. However, democratic development of the country will not be possible without free and independent courts, and most importantly, as long as the institution of a super presidency remains.
– What steps should be taken in Azerbaijan to pay attention to dissent, to build a multi-party system, as well as to create an election environment that creates equal conditions for dissenting parties?
– I have partially answered this question in the previous questions. But let me try to flesh out it. Nowhere in the world can ordinary people or even the most powerful political parties have complete control over the government. The mechanism for this is possible through the constitutional control of three independent branches of government over each other. There must be clear boundaries between the parliament, the courts, and the executive. Otherwise, neither changing the election system nor forming election commissions in a credible manner will solve the problem. Then we can see the establishment of a free-market economy, free media, a strong and independent civil society, and a multi-party political system.
Source: Turan News Agency