Our Analytics 24 december — 11:55

Aliyev, who saved his country from traps (Jubilee article)

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BY ALEXANDER KARAVAYEV, AZERI DAILY AUTHOR

Researchers of the political history of the 21st century will more than once refer to the figure of Ilham Aliyev, wondering who he is, this mister Aliyev, what formula determined the balance of the regularity and uniqueness of his phenomenon?

It is obvious that several components of success were combined in him, which created such a fate and such a character.

So young, Aliyev came to power. He looked out the window at the country... The President was faced with a struggle not for life, but for the country

Heaven showed signs

First, this is undoubtedly a foreordained one -- to be born in the family of Heydar Aliyev and to prove worthy succession to a powerful father with his intellectual growth and development of the qualities necessary for a politician.

But birth-right is just a chance. Luck can be used in different ways. How many examples of sons and daughters from among the 'golden youth' who have moved in the opposite direction, having lost the inheritance of their fathers and their families. Luck does not favour those who are not ready, it does not linger on those who had a chance, but did not realise it, did not make efforts to improve and lost such a gift of fate.

Becoming president by the age of forty-two, as Ilham Aliyev did, was a rare event at the beginning of the 21st century. But the passage of time is accelerating, and now in many countries this line has moved to thirty years. But the difference is also great -- it is, rather, not about age, but about the result and the parameters of the conditions, in which the young leader of the Azerbaijani people had to immerse himself. It is one thing to be the head of a European government or state as a functionary elected by a party get-together, and it is another to be at the helm of power in such a complex country as Azerbaijan.

The responsibility that fell on the shoulders of Ilham Aliyev was an extremely heavy burden even for experienced politicians with a lot of support resources.

At that time, the young, like Aliyev himself, Azerbaijani state was only moving away from the consequences of the interference of two waves of the crisis, which doubled the tragedy of the social catastrophe. The collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to the collapse of the infrastructure of macroeconomic ties, the Armenian aggression, which encouraged ethnic cleansing, undertaken by the separatists, led to the seizure of a fifth of Azerbaijani territory. By 2003, the socio-economic consequences of that recent war were still seriously affecting the situation: hundreds of thousands of unsettled refugees, the poverty level below 49%, the absence of those foreign exchange reserves that would help ten years later to begin a turn to a new type of industrial post-hydrocarbon economy...

The very young Ilham Aliyev found himself together with his father, the all-powerful Heydar Aliyev in Shusha... Decades later, Ilham Aliyev will return here as a victorious commander

Finally, it was a country with powerful pressure from conservative notions of power in the minds of the elite and highly archaic governance mechanisms that barely combined Soviet bureaucratic rudiments and the interests of the young bourgeoisie - an emerging class of medium and large property owners who were competing for access to the president and the budget.

In such conditions, the first attempts were made to adapt Western management practices, the preparation of new personnel reserves for key positions within the country, and the search for partners in the foreign policy belt. At the same time, the task was to defend national interests in the process of interaction with world oil companies, hardened in global raw materials wars, and to do this in such a way as to keep the focus of their interests in Caspian hydrocarbons, playing, among other things, on geopolitical attractiveness. And then there was an additional circle of obstacles associated with conflicts of interests of Russia on the one hand, the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany on the other...

To be frank, the leading world powers could build scenarios of various methods of control and influence on Azerbaijan after the departure of Heydar Aliyev. And such scenarios, most likely, were available...

Microcosm of Ilham and Mehriban

To take the helm of a country in the process of its difficult transit is an alarming, if not to say, shaky legacy, very burdened with a complex set of problems, which was fully manifested in the first years of Ilham Aliyev's presidency.

He passed this first test with dignity, showing a rare example of a combination of a successful multi-vector policy and correct domestic political decisions. But those years, the entire perimeter of the CIS was enveloped in waves of orange revolutions and coups.

Young Ilham Aliyev's Azerbaijan managed to pass these reefs. He was able to prove that he was able to pursue an independent foreign policy, without bowing under the dome of control of any one global power. Since then, the style characteristic of Aliyev began to appear, which can be safely called a stable multi-vector balancing, which made it possible to preserve and protect national interests in the best way.

The key support of Ilham Aliyev all these years has been his wife and like-minded person -- Mehriban Aliyeva.

It is not often seen in political history that a married couple appears capable not only of creating a strong family unity, but also of making friends, understanding each other, and finally being comrades-in-arms in the most complex political construction. In a year and a half, they will celebrate forty years of marriage. The unity of the spirit is very rare for the present time.

In the eyes of every man there is the name of the woman to whom he devoted his life... Mehriban Aliyeva became a like-minded person and the main ally of the President

In many aspects, future historians will consider them together -- as the creators of modern Azerbaijan. Family values ​​are an extremely important factor in the genesis of Azerbaijani society. And the example of the microcosm of the Aliyev couple in the eyes of Azerbaijanis, however, as well as others who are just getting acquainted with Azerbaijani traditions, is undoubtedly an example to be followed in the ability to find agreement by multiplying the spiritual resources of the family, to get along and agree, to find support in each other. And another of the significant features of Aliyev's portrait is the ability to strengthen his own potential as a politician together with his family. Are there still such examples in the world? But how many there are first persons who have parted with their spouse, and with their new chosen ones, have not found harmony, happiness, moreover, who have turned personal relationships into elements of a show for the mass media.

Twenty years ago there were many forks, when the energy of luck alone was not enough to start such a complex socio-political engineering that the Aliyev family faced...

The genius of the time to act

In subsequent years, Ilham Aliyev's talent as a manager began to manifest more clearly. He can rightfully be called the genius of the time to act. Almost all of his undertakings anticipate the emerging problem, the turns of the international situation and the economic situation. And the point is not only that he manages to think several steps ahead, it is a matter of a qualitative assessment of the current situation -- the alignment of combinations, assessment of the strengths of certain players. Without this, it is impossible to make a correct forecast. Without this, it is only marking time.

Just the example of the parliamentary elections being moved from 2020 to 2019 -- the decision made six months before the pandemic. Imagine how difficult it would be a little later to prepare for the established procedures, conduct discussions with various players, assess the prospects and personal qualities of members of both the ruling party and the opposition.

All this was avoided. Here's an example of how to do it on time by anticipating sharp turns and extreme circumstances.

In fact, the idea of ​​early dissolution of the Milli Majlis, as it turned out on the eve of the pandemic, is just one example of Aliyev's strategy for renewing power segments, which has been gradually and accurately implemented since the early 2020s.

By the time of this decision, only two months had passed since the appointment of the new Cabinet of Ministers, when representatives of a new, younger generation of Azerbaijanis born in the 1980s were appointed to different levels of executive power.

And again everything was on time. Maybe not when public opinion was waiting for changes (the public always expects them -- with or without reason), but when the ground was prepared, circumstances and most importantly people -- new young functionaries, patriotic and loyal to the Azerbaijani state.

With the full support of the people, Ilham Aliyev began to create a new state

Aliyev's strategy is not a revolutionary pace, but consistent, thoughtful steps of a gradual movement towards new levels of enhancing the Azerbaijani potential in the world and strengthening a positive atmosphere of development within the country.

Essentially, the post-Soviet transit of the state machine followed two routes. In the first case, the primacy of the political contest was chosen. The main thing on this route is the presence of players and their coalitions. They seem to set the trajectory of movement for a certain period. The deep questions of state building in this model fade into the background -- 'somehow by itself', 'the market will determine the most effective', 'the minimum of the state' and a similar set of arguments. The consequences of this can be seen in the example of Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia.

In the second case, the route of structural strengthening of the state structure and a departure from competition in favour of consolidation around the most powerful and purposeful leader is chosen.

This is the path of Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan.

Here, too, there are pitfalls associated with the search for such a leader, with the risks of ossification and deformation of the system, the risk of monopolisation. But these shortcomings, if desired, are easier to overcome than the situation of war of all against all.

Go to the goal without straining

Returning to what historians of the future will write about Aliyev's conservative modernisation: the gradual rotation of personnel and the branching of the executive power's functions strengthened his management system. It works when there is a combination of will from above, substantial financial and foreign exchange reserves, good discipline (a moderate repressive apparatus), a small size of the country's area and a population of no more than 20-30 millions of citizens. In addition to Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan follow a similar development model, with their own correlations and inputs.

The change in the generation of Azerbaijani officials, brought up by the Soviet school, who were quite influential and have many ramified lines of interests, could have unobvious consequences. And here Aliyev's genius was fully manifested. To start early, following the expectations of the country's young growing elite, may lead the country into destabilisation. And there are many examples of the use of such premature transitions to undermine the system of power in the post-Soviet space. Those who wished it were indicated at different moments of recent history in Azerbaijan as well. On the other hand, delaying the rotation means falling into the same trap, but from the other side.

Ilham Aliyev went down in the history of Azerbaijan as a collector of Azerbaijani lands

And here the art of not just a subtle understanding of the situation and manoeuvring, but of predictive insiderism, was fully manifested by the President. Therefore, by the time of the worldwide cataclysm of the pandemic, Azerbaijan was actually on the rise. Not only passed this test, but became one of the few beneficiaries of this historic challenge for human civilisation.

Azerbaijan entered the pandemic in the best economic shape of all the CIS countries -- the gross domestic product has more than tripled over the past 18 years.

According to the report of the Davos World Economic Forum 2020, Azerbaijan ranks 10th in the world for the long-term strategy of the government and 5th in the area of ​​the country's leadership's commitment to reforms. Therefore, there is every reason to say that the set of measures within the framework of the strategy 'Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development' will achieve its result -- doubling Azerbaijan's GDP over the next decade.

I wonder what message would Heydar Aliyev send to his 60-year-old son? How would he like to see Azerbaijan?

Surely a powerful modern country with vast influence and a wide range of opportunities. But the most important thing is for those who have restored those legal boundaries that were given to Azerbaijan by history, upon the fact of its birth, or rather, received by the relay from the Soviet Republic.

Ilham Aliyev was able to solve this problem. Moreover, it was a complex decision -- one action depended on another: the development of the economy, the accumulation of hydrocarbon capital, the correct management of them made it possible to make this leap towards the goal without straining, without creating a mobilisation economy, without wasting the strength of the nation. We feel very sorry for the victims, but this is the minimum for such a large-scale operation and this is forever inscribed in the history of the country and the entire region.

Therefore, for sure, the legendary father of Ilham Aliyev, like himself, would assess this victory of the Azerbaijani people as the best that a politician can imagine on his 60th birthday.

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