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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Youth & Reforms: Highlights of Azerbaijan’s Snap Elections 2020

Azerbaijan is just finished with its snap elections and there are several lessons to be learned from it. Women empowerment, free fair elections and equal opportunity for all were the basic guidelines the elections were held upon.

There are some fine new things trending in world politics; Reforms and youth. And I witnessed both these things in Azerbaijan’s political scene when I went to Baku to observe their snap elections held on 9th Feb 2020.

Azerbaijan’s parliamentary election witnessed candidates from the ruling ‘New Azerbaijan Party’ to win a profuse majority within the parliament. Having won 69 of the 125 seats in the single-chamber parliament, the party has once again affixed the cogs for running the country smoothly for another term.

The result was confirmed from nearly 110 districts and with almost fifty percent of the majority within the grasp of the New Azerbaijan Party in the parliament. The party is also bound to sway in a host of those independents who won, that were loyal to the government. With the party set for yet another successful term up at the helm of the government, it has to keep living up to its name.


Azerbaijan Snap Elections 2020

5.3 million voters were registered to vote in these snap elections. Candidates for the 125 Milli Majlis (parliament) seats were nominated by political parties, groups of voters, or were self-nominated. 19 political parties including New Azerbaijan Party, Party for Democratic Reforms, The Great Older Party, The Motherland Party, etc.

50% of the candidates contesting elections were under 40. The contending were 79% male while 21% were female candidates.

Each of the political parties in Azerbaijan have the same rights and opportunities to compete in elections as defined in by the Constitution. The election system is truly a mark of perfection where even women have to fight for votes instead of getting reserved seats in the parliament.

Read more: Pakistani companies explore business opportunities in Azerbaijan!

Nigar Arpadarai, one of the winning female candidates who contested as an independent candidate, in a press conference after the results were announced, answered if it is easy in Azerbaijan to contest elections as a woman, saying, “We are traditionally a conservative society, and of course sometimes I felt that if I were a man I had more chances, but on the other hand my main competitors were males and people voted for me which means they trust me more than them.”

Furthermore, she said, “While campaigning the response of people was positive when I used to tell them I have two boys, I am 38 years old, and they understood that I have achievements and they trusted me with their votes so that is a good sign.”

This kind of a politically impartial and just election system where there is equality right down from who can vote to which candidate is more deserving to win the election is also needed in Pakistan also. Having no reserved seats for women within the parliament just shows how a model parliament should be.

Aliyev dismissed his influential chief-of-staff, Ramiz Mehdiyev, and made other high-profile changes including the appointment of 62-year-old economist Ali Asadov as Prime Minister

Pakistan on the contrary heavily favors reserved seats for women which in the eyes of many can be seen as a form of gender discrimination where women get to have reserved seats instead of contesting for them. This can also highlight the inequality within our society that has eluded us for many decades yet there is Azerbaijan which got liberated in the ’90s and even then they are able to cherish women’s equality and actually empower them.

Another thing that was asked from four winning candidates in the press conference was if they had anyone from their families in politics? All four winners; Soltan Mammadov (independent), Nigar Arpadarai (independent), Kamal Jafarov (New Azerbaijan Party) and Nurlan Hasanov (New Azerbaijan Party) said that there was no one in the politics from their families.

The election day saw little or no fuss and furor regarding rigging and mismanagement during and after the election day. Process in most polling stations was smooth and only a couple of reports came from some polling stations where conflicts were reported between the candidates.

Read more: Imran Khan: The People’s Prime Minister – Shiffa Yousafzai

This time around, President Ilham Aliyev, also wanted to see a drastic change in his cabinet thus supported the youth to be a part of the election campaign. President Aliyev knows that the future rests in the hands of these youngsters and not in the worn-out grip of the tried and tested political ‘veterans’. Pakistan should also learn from this example and should support youngsters in becoming leaders besides voting for those incompetent landlords that swap and change parties as if they were clothes.

In October, Aliyev dismissed his influential chief-of-staff, Ramiz Mehdiyev, and made other high-profile changes including the appointment of 62-year-old economist Ali Asadov as Prime Minister. The president criticized the pace of economic reforms. The election, therefore, pitted veteran legislators against young, Western-educated candidates from the same governing party in an effort to overhaul the legislature with more able people. The result was the appointment and selection of various youngsters as parliamentarians and cabinet members such as Rovshan Najaf who has been appointed as the Deputy Economy Minister of Azerbaijan.

Kamal Jafarov from New Azerbaijan Party was very optimistic about the reforms when asked how are these snap elections important for Azerbaijan, he answered, “These new elections are an opportunity for the new mindset and it is obvious with the results that people are satisfied with President Aliyev’s reforms.”

Soltan Mammadov, an independent candidate was asked about the problems in the election process, to which Mammadov’s response was that, “The only problem that I found was that our observers may not be very well trained and may not very well understand their roles and responsibilities so sometimes while performing their duty they exceed from their power which makes it look like as if they are interfering by asking questions from voters.” Moreover, he said, “There should be properly trained staff and observers so that it doesn’t bother the voters.”


Azerbaijan-Pakistan ties

Azerbaijan is not aligned to any big regional grouping such as the European Union or the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. Azerbaijan maintains a balance when it comes to its foreign policy. Pakistan, since Azerbaijan’s independence, has had very strong ties with it.

Azerbaijani people highly regard Pakistan and Pakistanis. Modern relations between the two states were established when the republic of Azerbaijan became independent following the collapse of the USSR – on December 26th, 1991. Pakistan was the first country to recognize Azerbaijan as an Independent state on Dec 12th, 1991

Trade and cooperation have steadily grown between the two nations, with several summits being held on how to improve trade between the two. The two countries are considered “strategic partners” and have a bond of cooperation in all fields like the military to military relations and also among security agencies.

Read more: Imran Khan Govt: Fighting Bravely on the Economic Front!

When it comes to economic relations, both Pakistan and Azerbaijan enjoyed an average bilateral trade turnover of around $7.3 million dollars during the second half of 2018. The statistics of the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan indicates that the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Pakistan amounted to $8.34 million dollars between January and September in 2018. Compared to the previous year, there was an overall 22.46% increase. However, both countries have the intention to increase this further in the upcoming years. Due to Azerbaijan’s huge energy capacity, Pakistan considers Azerbaijan as an important trade partner as Pakistan is a major oil-importing country.

Pakistan is also one of the few countries that supports Azerbaijan’s side of the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict despite knowing that this might just lead to a direct confrontation with Russia that actually possesses the strings that control Armenia.

Similarly, Azerbaijan also supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir conflict over India’s. Pakistan has also affirmed military support to Azerbaijan saying it was fully ready to equip the Azerbaijani military and Azerbaijan confirmed it by stating that it “stood with Pakistan on the Kashmir problem”. Azerbaijan is also at the forefront in buying block 3 JF-17 fighters from Pakistan which are now being mass-produced for this reason. This military, economic and international support given by both countries to each other is one of many signs for enhanced cooperation between both in the future.

Shiffa Yousafzai is a TV presenter & producer with Hum News. She is an International Alumni Ambassador for Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, where she studied Multimedia Journalism. Earlier, she graduated with business and marketing at Air University, Islamabad. Shiffa could be followed on twitter @Shiffa_ZY and on Facebook @ShiffaYousafzai. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.