Azerbaijan: Political changes to come?

Ahmad Alili, Center for Economic and Social Development (Azerbaijan, Baku)

Subscribe for Newsletter

Download PDF

The signs of the first lady Mehriban Aliyeva trying to challenge her husband on the presidential post became more evident in Azerbaijan. In the meantime the government is trying to improve the economic situation even by some unpopular steps and normalize the relations with Russia

Domestic Policy: Ex-president calls for Mrs. Aliyeva’s presidency

The first President of Azerbaijan Ayaz Mutallibov expressed his will to support the candidacy of Mehriban Aliyeva for the next presidential elections in 2018.
“I have no intentions to create a political party. Nevertheless, I deal positively with a Mehriban Aliyeva’s candidacy in the presidential elections. I would like to use all the means of support for the Mehriban Aliyeva candidacy. If she decides to be a candidate, I am ready to make a public statement to the people”.
Mutallibov believes Azerbaijan always needs stability, “especially if you follow the geopolitical changes around”.

Mehriban’s husband, the current President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, has been in the office since 2003. He himself “inherited” the office after his father, Heydar Aliyev, who was a leader for the previous ten years.

Aliyeva, the first lady of Azerbaijan, a doctor by education, the head of the Olympics committee of the country, has been appointed  as the First Vice-President following the constitutional referendum in September, 2016.

The candidacy of the fist lady for the next presidential elections has been speculated since then, but no official or public declaration of the intent was made. Some experts see such intentions as a sign of her farther’s influential clan of Pashaev strengthening  and of the Aliyev’s clan weakening.

Turan information agency closed down

On 25 August the Turan Information Agency made a public statement on suspending its activities.

Following the arrest of Mehman Aliyev, the agency director, on the tax evasion charges, the bank accounts of the agency were frozen. The media agency staff found functioning under these circumstances very difficult though promised to update the news site at the expense of their own funds and enthusiasm in the near future.
The U.S. State of Department urged the government of Azerbaijan to release Mehman Aliyev.

The Turan Information Agency was established in the early days of the independence of Azerbaijan and has been a reliable source of the information for many years. The incident is among quite a few cases after the EU-Azerbaijan negotiations started that endanger the positive trend in the EU-Azerbaijan relations. Turan was the last standing free media outlet in Azerbaijan, so the Western partners express concerns about the freedom of speech in the country.

Economy: Increase in gasoline prices

On 15 July the Tariff Council set up a new regulated retail price for gasoline AI-92 at 0.90 AZN (about $00.53), instead of the previous 0.70 AZN (about $0.41) by the liter. The request for the price change came from the state-owned national oil and gas company SOCAR.

SOCAR justified its action by improving the quality of the produced fuel, making the oil refinery and production attractive for the investment, upgrading and refurbishing the oil refining industry. The representatives of the government also commented the case by arguing even after the AI-92 retail price increase in Azerbaijan is lower than in the most member states of the Commonwealrg of Independent States.

No official or public declaration of the intent to run in the next presidential elections was made by the fist lady

The move comes after the natural gas prices increase, the state budget revision and the increasing of the transfers to SOCAR, and amid media speculations over the non-liquidity of the SOCAR’s activities. The experts assess this case as a necessary additional step to help SOCAR overcome its financial difficulties. As the stability of the national oil and gas company is important for the oil-oriented economy of the country.

Agrarian politics becomes top priority

Azerbaijan started the implementation of the Strategic Roadmaps for the economic reforms. On 10 August the President Aliyev signed a State Program on the development of the tobacco products in the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2017-2021. The program intends to abolish all taxes (except the basic ones) for the tobacco producers, subsidize the sector, and in 2021 produce 12 thousand tons of tobacco.

Following the economic slowdown in 2015, the government has taken series of steps to improve the situation regarding the non-oil sector in Azerbaijan, diversify and increase its export and make the country less dependent on the raw materials.

IBA agreed with investors

On 18 July the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) reached an agreement with the international creditors and secured the necessary votes to proceed with the announced $3 billion restructuring plan.

Previously, in June, the IBA applied to a New-York court for a bankruptcy, and in its turn it judged in favor of the bank with fending off the creditors while the restructuring plan will be fulfilled.
The problems with the management, investment and loan policy, macroeconomic issues in the country, risky investment projects created the current difficult situation for the country’s largest lender.

Foreign Policy. A new Sochi meeting

On July, 22 the President of Azerbaijan Aliyev and the President of Russia Putin had an unexpected meeting in Sochi. No information on the intended meeting was released beforehand. As well as the follow-up messages did not reveal much about the meeting. The presidents discussed the regional security issues and economic cooperation, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The meeting comes after the several months of the tensions between Moscow and Baku. Following the NATO produced airplane purchase by Azerbaijan, Russia created some obstacles for the Azerbaijani agricultural products import and annulled the license of a diaspora organization of Azerbaijan.

Although, following the meeting no overt positive trend was witnessed, the news on the negative development stopped.