A roundtable on the situation in the country with participation of public figures and party leaders, organized at the initiative of the Musavat party was held on November 5. The participants: Director of Turan news agency Mehman Aliyev, former Minister of Health Ali Insanov, head of the National Center for Strategic Thought Isa Gambar, chair of the People’s Party Panah Huseyn, political commentator Hikmet Hajizadeh, head of the Popular Front Party Ali Kerimli, and the head of the Musavat Party, Arif Hajili. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Musavat party. The chair of the National Council, Jamil Hasanli, and the chair of the ReAL party, Ilgar Mammadov, were also invited to the meeting, but they were unable to attend due to technical reasons. The discussions took place behind closed doors, and resulted in the adoption of a final statement. The statement said that the participants of the roundtable agreed on functional cooperation on the issues of building a legal state, a democratic society in Azerbaijan, the liberation of Karabakh from occupation and the fight against the authoritarian regime. After this event, special attention in social networks was paid to the return of the former Minister of Health Ali Insanov to the scene, as well as the possible creation of a new opposition association.The initiator of the Roundtable, the leader of the Musavat party, Arif Hajili, answers the questions of ASTNA on results of the meeting.
– What was the goal of the roundtable initiated by you, as a chair of the Musavat party?
– Recently, the aggression of the authorities against the opposition has increased. The number of arrests has increased. Human rights are even more restricted. As an adequate reaction, the negative attitude of society towards power has further intensified. Countering violence is growing. In such a situation, the consolidation of society is very important. The opposition, whose resources are limited, and the activities are carried out separately, will not be able to cope with such a task. The goal of the roundtable with the participation of the heads of political forces, political figures was to increase the resistance of society, to return people’s faith in the future, in the prospect of struggle and the creation of a reference point for this faith. It is no coincidence that at the first meeting a common position was reached on some issues important for the consolidation of society.
-The reason for the discussion became some people invited by you to the roundtable. For example, the cause of dissatisfaction was the fact that Ali Insanov, who was in the past in power, was sitting at the same table with the opposition. Whose idea was it to invite Ali Insanov and what did you mean by that?
– The term “traditional opposition” is an invention of the current government, striving to create a “pocket opposition” and a “new opposition” in the country, using state resources for this. Azerbaijan has a wide opposition to the regime’s policy, which can come to power in the first democratic elections. Unfortunately, the power of opposition of Azerbaijani society is not enough to force the authorities to adhere to the Constitution and laws, international law. We are trying to increase this strength of resistance. We should not give the initiatives because of this situation. This composition is based on certain criteria. I invited the leaders of political organizations with real political influence, social and political figures with sufficient experience and professionalism in analyzing the current situation and finding ways out of it, as well as politicians who are the main target of the current regime. In principle, if we invited even 100 figures to the meeting, there would still be dissatisfied. Agree that one of the targets of the current government, at least in the top five, is Ali Insanov. I am not Ali Insanov’s lawyer; I do not intend to stand up for him. However, I would like to remind friends who draw far-reaching conclusions from this that Ali Insanov is not the first politician who served the regime of Heydar Aliyev at one time, and then joined the opposition camp. There are also those who had great merits to this regime, even organizing the rebellion on June 4, and subsequently took high positions in the opposition structures, in the blocs created by the opposition. Now many are in such positions. However, there is a difference. They, like Ali Insanov, did not sit for 14 years for their position. They did not apologize to the public, the opposition for their previous deeds. The main question is that the Round Table is not some kind of allied bloc; it is not a political bloc at all, but most of all an advisory center.
-Will such roundtable continue, or was it supposed to be only for once?
-Probably, the process will continue. This is dictated by current political conditions. Roundtable participants noted their interest in continuing this process. The public also demands this from us.
-What results would you like to achieve through that initiative?
– I have already told about this in the answer to your first question. I will only add that the roundtable and public attention to this event turned out to be more effective than my expectations. I will try to make this center a guideline that builds up the resistance of Azerbaijani society.
– Many were skeptical of the roundtable and the political parties and personalities represented there, even criticism was voiced. One of the main opinions was that there were many such roundtables and opposition blocs. Whenever something happens in a country, the opposition always unites in some form with the help of some mediators. For example, in 2013, the National Council and Rustam Ibrahimbayov. Now a new form of unity and a new face of Ali Insanov. What is your attitude to such statements?
-This is the wrong opinion. Once again, I note that the Round Table is not a political or allied bloc. This consultative center discusses ways to get the country out of this situation, ensure cooperation between political forces. Firstly, now there is no presidential elections like in the 2013. Secondly, regarding the Musavat party, I can say that if the party takes part in the presidential election, then with its candidate.
-There are those who argue that the source of the opposition’s intention to step up is the changes taking place in the government. That is, specifically this activation is linked with Ramiz Mehdiyev, as if the opposition was under the supervision of Ramiz Mehdiyev, acting according to his plans. Now after his dismissal, the opposition has activated to put the government in a difficult situation. By the way, your initiative to hold a roundtable and the dismissal of Ramiz Mehdiyev from his post coincided. Do you have a counterargument?
– Honestly, I have not heard such accusations from anyone, but from trolls not respecting themselves. Such absurd statements are made to create decadent moods in society and prevent the consolidation of society. They are replicated by dirty propaganda centers. Activation of the opposition, or rather society, occurred at the end of the past and the beginning of this year. After January 2019, the authorities take various preventive measures to suppress this activity. Ramiz Mehdiyev was one of the main winners of the authoritarian regime. Nothing has changed after his dismissal. Now others have replaced Ramiz Mehdiyev, and with even greater zeal and absurdity, perform similar functions. The goal of Ilham Aliyev in replacing Ramiz Mehdiyev is not the intention to soften the authoritarian regime, but rather, to strengthen it. My proposal to hold a Roundtable was born out of numerous proposals coming from the company, as well as the need to consolidate the society.
-Musavat Party first proposed a rally, and then a picket. What would you associate with activation in the Musavat party in other opposition organizations too? What is your protest against?
-At the rally and picket, we put forward specific demands regarding the termination of lawlessness prevailing in the country, corruption, violation of human rights, the organization of an effective struggle for the liberation of Karabakh, the release of political prisoners, ensuring freedom of speech, expression, and assembly. On Constitution Day, we will demand that the government comply with the Constitution and laws.
-And finally, how do you assess the ongoing processes in the country and changes in power? These changes have revived hope in many people. However, people’s hope for power is not at all in the interests of the opposition; this complicates its activities. Where do you think this situation will lead? Will the opposition be able to assert itself and convince people to achieve something?
-As I have already noted, the softening the regime did not lead either to the creation of a state based on the rule of law or the formation of a democratic society. To pursue a similar policy more effectively, the old staff is renewed. No reforms in education, health, tax and customs have been implemented. All statements made by Ilham Aliyev since 2003 in his speeches regarding the economy have remained just statements. That is, our state budget depends on energy resources and this dependence has not decreased. The non-oil sector is not developing. People in regions are not provided with jobs, normal living conditions, the flow of people to cities, especially to Baku, continues. The social state of the population is deplorable. It is possible that now the statements about positive changes sound even louder, but there are no positive changes in the economic, political, or the direction of the Karabakh settlement. The opinion that the position of the opposition will become more complicated if the authorities achieve development is wrong. The strongest opposition parties in the world are in the most developed countries. If the state develops, strengthens, then the existing political system strengthens. Opposition is an integral part of the political system. The development of the state, the strengthening of the political system strengthens the opposition.