Our Analytics 21 march — 14:17

Intuition prompted Ilham Aliyev (Results with Azeri Daily)

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BY ALEXANDER KARAVAYEV, EXCLUSIVELY FOR AZERI DAILY

The work of Azerbaijan's National Assembly - the Milli Majlis - of the sixth convocation began. The speed of transformation of Azerbaijan, its international and domestic political profile, largely depend on its success. Whether the MPs want it or not, it will be a different parliament in another country, not the same as it has been seen from 2019.

First lady of Parliament

Valentina Matviyenko in Russia, Dariga Nazarbayeva in Kazakhstan, Tanzila Narbaeva in Uzbekistan, and now Sahiba Gafarova in Azerbaijan: the tendency to consolidate the leading positions in politics for women is growing. If you take the whole world, legislative assemblies of more than 50 countries are headed by women. This is a kind of elite club that expands from year to year.

Sahiba Gafarova and the factor of 'soft power'

Considering that the foreign policy image of Azerbaijan is also formed in a certain sense by First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva, the choice of Sahiba Gafarova for the position of the speaker creates an interesting pair configuration of Azerbaijan's 'soft power.' First of all, as before, this will work in the format of a complementary discussion platform. Gafarova has been recently elected in PACE as chairperson of the committee on migration, refugees and internally displaced persons. In January 2016, this was the first time that a representative of the Azerbaijani delegation was elected to such a position.

Now this topic, in the context of quarantine and a pandemic, is becoming the forefront of pan-European politics: it makes sense to develop rational proposals and hold a conference in this regard. Azerbaijan's proposals may sound louder.

It also makes sense to intercept the anti-virus topics. After the abolition of global quarantine, a series of international conferences on response issues, methods of localisation and coordination, correlation of rights to freedom of movement and the need for reaction are necessary: a huge mass of urgent issues. The Azerbaijani Parliament could initiate this discussion, and Baku could become the venue.

Ilham Aliyev was right

Now let's recall in retrospect the discussion: why did Azerbaijan need early parliamentary elections. Based on this spring, imagine the autumn of 2020 and the election situation. A country after quarantine, with lower incomes and weakened reserves. To cancel or postpone the election? I will not further expand the answer. Of course, no one could have predicted a pandemic of the virus. But the tendencies of the onset of the recession were noticeable to attentive analysts, including the Azerbaijani president, having the opportunity to consult with the heads of major companies and shadow leaders.

President's analysis and intuition predetermined stability in the country

After all, it was no accident that he pointed out at every meeting the need to reduce external debt: a problem that all countries of the world will now face. In any case, after the IMF has announced the possibility of allocating $1 trillion for anti-crisis measures, countries such as Azerbaijan may have a better chance of obtaining such a loan package. And the second most important moment: Aliyev promptly changed the ruling team on all levels and verticals of the state structure of Azerbaijan, from the presidential and government administrations, to the heads of districts and city administrations. Now there is hope that the new cadres will work more focused and coordinated.

Thus, politically, Azerbaijan entered the global storm quite prepared. In economic terms, Azerbaijan is also at its peak: foreign exchange reserves have reached a record level of $51 billion, plus 20-30% of the shadow economy.

Attempt to change the quality of the elite

A member of parliament personifies the political elite. Not because he or she is so smart or rich, but because this is an assessment of citizens as a result of voting, and, therefore, the position in the elite group, connection with other subjects of this institution of power. Member of parliament is a status position. The problem is that, having received his or her 'rights' as a result of competition, a deputy often forgets about one's duties. Each time, a situation arises of the need to turn this 'place of honour' into a real instrument of communication with society, and not just into a chair for lobbying the interests of one's group or simply endorsing laws developed by executive structures and the presidential administration. All CIS countries are trying to cope with this problem of the political culture of post-Soviet transit.

Not only in Azerbaijan does a situation of inertia arise inside the pyramid of power when its leader brings in new faces. The crisis of change, the change of one loyal category of elite to another, no less loyal, but new in terms of personnel and energetic in terms of initiatives: all this causes objective friction inside. If the system copes with this, it develops further. If not, the crisis ends with self-destruction. As we see, everything turned out quite successfully in Azerbaijan. In the new parliament, there are 82 'senior' MPs - from 2 to 6 convocations in a row, and 44 newcomers. Correction (cancellation of results) occurred in 4 constituencies.

How did the result meet the expectations of the authorities? It was noticeable that some efforts were made to increase the number of new MPs. The presidential administration met with a full range of forces. Now that the current configuration is an objective fact, management reforms will be carried out with the current parliamentary team. There is a lot of work.

Reform should lead to a change in the response rate of legislation. As an example, we note how the parliament quickly adopted fines for violating the quarantine regime and hygiene rules. Ahead is a lot of work on constant monitoring of technical regulations for production, amending and updating legislation in electronic commerce. Many other, imperceptible, specific, but most important issues.

A paradox, but a pandemic is contributing to an accelerated transition to an e-government system. Meetings of committees and commissions can now be transferred online.

Will the MPs turn the 'place of honour' into a real toolbox?

The Milli Majlis has a significant role in discussing the package of anti-crisis measures and the distribution of $600 million allocated to the government according to the order of Ilham Aliyev. It may include the following topics:

- is it possible to cancel or reduce utility bills. When people sit at home, they consume more electricity and water;

- is a four-day work week possible;

- is it possible in the future to switch to the payment of unconditional basic income;

- the introduction of a deferment in the payment of current taxes;

- determination of the framework (or potential amount of funds) that a household or entrepreneur can request once;

- deferral in consumer loans.

And of course, parliament should be closer to current needs and strengthen the oversight function.

The crisis connected with the arrested heads of administrations of some districts directly affects the activities of MPs from these districts and the entire MP corps, given that the phenomena of 'privatisation' of power at the regional level are quite common. In a speech by Ilham Aliyev at the first plenary meeting, this idea sounded quite clearly: the Parliament should become a moral and ideological tuning fork - 'not enter into corrupt agreements, and avoid the practice of patronising one's relatives in key positions or in business.' This, of course, is the most difficult task of overcoming the historical rut, but it must be completed. A pandemic is a war. It creates a new elite. Either destroying, or changing the former.

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