Diplomacy

Ready for the New Era

Diplomacy & Politics

With President Ilham Aliyev's recent victory in the presidential election, he is now looking to the future to develop ties with other countries and continue Azerbaijan's recent economic boom.

STRUCTURE

The Azerbaijani political system is based on a new constitution implemented in 1995 shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The current President, Ilham Aliyev, is serving his third five-year term after a resounding victory in the October 2013 presidential elections decided by the popular vote. President Aliyev is the son of the still hugely respected National Leader Heydar Aliyev, who was the President from 1993 until his death in 2003. Ilham Aliyev was the Vice-President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), and was also elected twice to the National Assembly, or the Milli Majlis. The President is the Head of State, and selects his prime minister, who becomes the Head of Government and is confirmed by the National Assembly of Azerbaijan. The current Prime Minister, Artur Rasizade, has been in office since 2003. The President also appoints all cabinet-level government officials. In line with the constitution, 38 ministers and the deputies of the prime minster form a subordinate body. The President holds executive power, while legislative power lies with the Milli Majlis. This single chamber is determined by general election, the most recent having been held in 2010, and won by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP). The current government holds 71 out of 125 seats in the Milli Majlis, with 41 of the remaining seats held by independents, and 11 by various other political parties. The main opposition parties are the Democratic Reform Party, Great Creation Party, the Movement for National Rebirth, Party of Hope, Civic Unity, Civic Welfare, Justice Party, and the United Azerbaijan Popular Front, which each hold one seat in the National Assembly. The current Speaker of the National Assembly is Ogtay Asadov. Elections for the Milli Majlis are held every five years on the first Sunday of November, the next of which will take place in 2015.

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES

The National Assembly contains 11 parliamentary committees in total, which are the main drivers of reform of the legislative framework. Currently, these committees cover the topics of legal policy, security and defense, political economy, natural resources, agrarian policy, regional problems, social politics, science and education, as well as cultural, international, and human rights. These groups play a major role in drafting new laws and recommendations for new codes, bills, action plans, and other key national programs. Each committee contributes greatly to its respective field with the aim of regulatory reform and improvements, while providing expertise, in-depth analysis, and guidelines for future development. Each committee must file biannual progress reports, as well as hold meetings that are open to the public and press to ensure transparency.

The Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Economic Court retain judicial power in the country, which is realized in civil and criminal court proceedings. The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan is composed of nine judges appointed by the National Assembly. Judges are appointed for 15-year terms and cannot be elected twice. The President appoints the chair and the deputy chair of the Constitutional Court.

Locally, Azerbaijan is divided into 78 rayons, or provinces, including 59 regional rayons and 11 municipal areas in the contiguous area of the country. The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is a landlocked area of 5,300 square kilometers that borders Turkey, Iran, and Armenia. Nakhichevan is subdivided into eight administrative divisions, seven rural rayons, and one municipality, the capital Nakhichevan City.

ELECTIONS

The recent presidential elections in October 2013 delivered a decisive victory for President Aliyev and his party. He acquired 3.13 million votes, or 84.54% of the total, with a turnout of 71.62%. His closest competitor was Jamil Hasanli of the National Council of Democratic Forces, who collected 204,642 votes, or 5.53% of the total. The general international opinion of them was positive. The Council of Europe declared that “overall around election day, we have observed a free, fair, and transparent electoral process.” French Senator Thani Mohamed Soilihi, who also observed the elections, stated that he did not “see any difference in the election processes of our countries [France and Azerbaijan].” President Aliyev’s third term was made possible due to a constitutional change made in 2009. The change abolished the two-term limit and allows any future president to run for an unlimited amount of times. In an interview with TBY, President Ilham Aliyev described how his victory was based on solid economic targets that followed the path laid out by the National Leader Heydar Aliyev, “Over the past 10 years, the incomes of our population have increased 6.5 times and the average salary 5.5 times. I think that the decline in poverty from 49% to 5.3% and the reduction of unemployment by half to 5% can be viewed as important achievements of the country.”

INTERNATIONAL TIES

As Azerbaijan’s economy develops, so do its ambitions as a political power on the global stage. It has recently been trying to foster relations among its neighbors, as well as further afield. On April 14, 2014, Azerbaijan received a delegation from the Russian Federation of Ulyanovsk. The Governor of the region, Sergey Morozov, met with President Aliyev to discuss ties, and how to increase cooperation between the two states. Both heads of state expressed their desires to promote bilateral cooperation, and President Aliyev reiterated his stance on promoting and developing ties with the federal states of Russia. The delegation discussed investment opportunities and joint production agreements, while stating the potential for expanded relations. Azerbaijan is also interested in developing its military ties with Russia and has stated that it will be taking part with Rosoboronexport in the ADEX-2014 International Defense Industry Exhibition in September 2014 in Baku. Rosoboronexport is Russia’s state intermediary import/export agency for the full range of defense and duel-use end products, technologies, and services from the Russian arsenal. Azerbaijan recently received a shipment of T-90 tanks, heavy flamethrower systems, Msta self-propelled artillery, Mi-35M attack helicopters, BMP-3 infantry vehicles, and BTR-82 APCs. The agreement between Rosoboronexport and Azerbaijan also included the licensed production of the AK-74M machine gun. Azerbaijan’s defense industry has surged over the past decade increasing eight fold between 2005 and 2013. The Ministry of Defense produced AZN121.1 million worth of defense products in 2013, and experienced a 3.7% increase on the year before. It also exported AZN96 million worth of defense products for the year. The Ministry of Defense currently produces over 900 defense products, and plans to add mortars, tracked armored vehicles, prismatic binoculars, minesweepers, and patrol vehicles to that list over 2014. Azerbaijan cooperates with over 60 companies from a number of countries and aims to showcase many of its new products at the ADEX-2014.

On April 11, 2014, Azerbaijan sent a delegation led by Parliamentary First Deputy Speaker Ziyafat Asgarov to meet with the South Korean Speaker of the National Assembly, Kang Chang-Hee. The two countries are currently in discussions about whether to enhance ties and promote bilateral cooperation. The meeting discussed current agreements signed between South Korea and Azerbaijan, as well as emphasized the importance of high level meetings between delegations. The meeting also discussed the importance of presidential visits and inter-parliamentary agreements between the two countries to promote trade and strengthen relations. Some of the main topics of cooperation were in the fields of energy, transport, and infrastructure, with Azerbaijan looking for South Korean cooperation and investment in its country. Over the past seven years, Korea and Azerbaijan have signed over 40 trade agreements, generating a trade turnover in excess of $650 million. Azerbaijan also has a vested interest in the South Korean property market, where Azerbaijani investors own $450 million worth of real estate. The Azerbaijani delegation also met with former Korean Prime Minister Jung Hong-Won, the Vice-Speaker of the Korean National Assembly Park Byeong-Seug, members of the Korea-Azerbaijani Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, and the Deputy Mayor of Seoul, Kim Sang Bum.

The government of Azerbaijan is also looking closer to home to develop ties and recently met with the OSCE Parliament Assembly on April 16, 2014. The President of the OSCE Parliament and Speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament Ranko Krivokapic met in Baku with delegates from the Azerbaijani government to discuss the promotion of bilateral trade and cooperation. The OSCE also agreed to hold the upcoming 23rd annual session in Baku. Krivokapic described the decision as a new era in OSCE and Azerbaijani cooperation and also stated his interest in developing ties not just between Azerbaijan and the OSCE, but also with his own country of Montenegro.

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