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Azerbaijan’s corruption woes stretch from the grassroots level up to the highest echelons of government. To tackle the ill, in 2004 the government passed an anti-corruption law that specifies the obligations of government officials. A proposed law would also require all public officials to report their annual income and property to a state commission for inspection. It’s a start, but how much further should the reforms go?

Pro-Government: Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP):

YAP argues that corruption exists everywhere in the world, but maintains that “economic tools” are the best way to fight the problem in Azerbaijan. Among these tools, YAP Deputy Executive Secretary Mubariz Gurbanly cites the “[i]ntensification of economic reforms, protecting property owners’ rights and giving Azerbaijanis a sense of ownership, increasing salaries of bureaucrats and law-enforcement agencies.” Gurbanly mentions the Anti-Corruption Council created by President Ilham Aliyev in 2005 as effective for administrative measures, and points to the creation of “state bodies and commissions fighting corruption” as a sign that the government recognizes the extent of the problem. As of 2005, he adds, all state officials must declare their incomes. “YAP does not think that the development of punishment mechanisms will eliminate corruption in the country. First of all, we should develop economic reforms and educate people.”

Opposition: Azadlig (Freedom) Bloc:

“We are for progressive reforms which will eliminate corruption and establish fair trials,” says Fakhmin Hajiyev, deputy head of Azadlig Bloc’s campaign. “Azadlig advocates formation of a free market economy and establishing equal opportunities for all economic players. Anti-corruption legislation should be properly implemented, special rules for public employment should be introduced. Executive, judiciary and parliamentary powers should act as a check on each other. Increasing parliament’s control mechanism is necessary. All of these will be possible only if free and fair elections are held in November 2005 because the ruling regime benefits from corruption and legal nihilism.”

Opposition: Yeni Siyasat (YeS – New Policy) Bloc:

“Corruption is the number one danger to the country,” says YeS campaign manager Rashid Hajili. “The most forward-thinking way of fighting corruption is by holding free and fair parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan in November 2005. And then the legitimate parliament will take the necessary administrative, legal, economic and political steps to reduce or solve this problem.”

Opposition: Liberal Party of Azerbaijan (LPA):

“Corruption is the main enemy of Azerbaijan and the LPA is the main enemy of corruption,” Liberal Party Deputy Chairman Avaz Temirkhan declared. The party stresses, however, that it does not call for “repressive measures” for eliminating the ill. Rather, it is betting on increasing parliament’s oversight of the government. “ A special body should be established for controlling executive agencies and the head of this body should be nominated by the opposition and approved by parliament.”

Candidate: Ilgar Mammadov, Independent
Constituency: # 8 Binagadi 1st
Location: Baku suburb

“The government’s attitude toward corruption should change from the current ‘It exists everywhere in the world’ to ‘It is shameful,’” says Mammadov. “Schools and universities must be cleaned up first: nothing should teach the younger generation to be corrupt. Local government reform should make municipalities smaller, closer to these people, and give these elected bodies more authority than the executive branch. This would dramatically reduce corruption in day-to-day life. Anti-corruption reforms in the judiciary must be implemented immediately and with the greatest vigor.”

Candidate: Ayten Shirinova, Independent
Constituency: # 29 Sabail
Location: Downtown Baku

“This is one of the most serious and deepest problems that Azerbaijan faced as part of the USSR. Recently, the government has tried to take a certain steps to solve this problem; in particular, the law against corruption has been adopted [in 2004]. But corruption has become a social problem and solving this problem through legislation does not lead to the expected results. We need time to change the way of thinking in society, to change [our] mentality.”

AZERBAIJAN: ELECTIONS 2005 is a production of EurasiaNet.org with funding provided by the Open Society Institute.
Copyright © 2005 EurasiaNet.org.