2013 – The year of Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan

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By Waheed Hussain

October 9, 2013 is marked as a day of presidential elections in Azerbaijan. As per Constitution the electioneering starts 60 days before the election take place. Accordingly, the campaign of candidates starts 23 days and finishing 24 hours before elections.The Azerbaijani Government has taken series of initiatives that serve to ensure free, transparent and fair elections.

The Administration of the President, Central Election Commission (CEC) and the OSCE Baku office launched a project of sessions in different places of Azerbaijan on inadmissibility of illegal interference to the election process. The special trainings for the heads of polling stations on implementation of decree of President on “National plan of action for protection of human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan Republic” are being organized by CEC.

5000 points in different spots of Azerbaijan were allocated by executive bodies for candidates to hold meetings with voters during election campaign. The registered candidates are given facilities to carry on campaign on gratis basis on Public Television and the state owned newspapers.

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It is pertinent to mention that the letters to observe 9 October elections were sent to number of prestigious international organizations including UN, OIC, OSCE, QUAM, CIS, Black Sea Cooperation Organization etc.. Consequently, more than 3000 international and thousands local observers are expected to take part at Presidential elections 2013.

So far, there are 16 candidates registered by Central Election Commission. They are representing different political parties such as Yeni Azerbaijan, Umid, Liberal Democratic, Social Democratic, United Azerbaijan Front etc. as well as independent politicians and prominent public figures.

Indeed, the main candidate at the election is a current President Mr. Ilham Aliyev who was nominated from Yeni Azerbaijan Party.

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It is undeniable fact that during 10 years of Mr. Alham Aliyev’s rule Azerbaijan achieved remarkable development in all spheres of life. In order to realize the scope of the progress made by country one has to address the facts and figures.

The Azerbaijani nation is witnessing rapid and dynamic development that is comparable with developed countries. A country with less than 10 million population has become a leading power in Transcaucasia.

Attraction of foreign direct investments and the calculated oil strategy has given its results. Oil production has increased by 3 times earning the country 78 bln USD. Increase of gas production by 5,6 times transformed Azerbaijan from the gas importing country into the gas exporting one.

Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbons are being transported through diversified network system like Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and others. Implementation of these energy projects emphasizes the role of Azerbaijan as a reliable energy source and transportation route. 14 newly constructed power electric stations all over Azerbaijan not only ensured a long –term electric energy security of republic but made possible to export it to the neighbouring countries as well.

Over the last decade, Azerbaijan has transformed into a leading regional investor, financing multi-billion projects in different countries of the world.

A transparent Oil Fund has been established to collect and manage revenues from energy-related activities and to control a use of these revenues for economic diversification. It is therefore that the non-oil sector of Azerbaijan has grown by 10 % in 2012 only. Thus, in 2012, the revenues in ICT sector of the country were 1,750 billion, which is 6 times more compared to 2003. During these years the first Azerbaijan’s satellite “Azerspace-1″ was successfully launched into orbit, the number of internet users has increased by 10 times, Trans – Eurasian information corridor was established, electronic government was formed, the number of mobile subscribers increased by 9 times etc.

The economic growth of Azerbaijan goes accompanied by enormous construction boom, development of the industry, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and culture.

During these years the agricultural sector was increased by 3,3 times. More than 1 bln. USD soft loans were allocated to reforms in this particular field assuring the food security of the country.

Tremendous achievements were made in transport field as well. Nearly 14 billion USD have been invested in this sphere. Number of international airports increased up to 6, fleet of national flag career AZAL and marine transport were fully renewed. Implemented and ongoing transport corridor projects contributed to facilitation of transportation of goods and passengers from Central Asia and Azerbaijan onwards to Europe and back and ultimately made country a main transport hub of the region.

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The social security, education and support to youth remain priorities of the state. The average monthly amount of pensioners has increased by 8 times, the former Soviet Union savings were returned to population, the foundation for social mortgage was laid. The expenditures for education increase by 6 times, mechanism of study of young people abroad at the expense of the Government was formed. Nearly two thousand young people were involved in this program so far and this figure is expected to cross 5000 by 2015. During the years 2003-2012 total of 2457 new school buildings were built and repaired for study of 550 thousand pupils. The schools were fully computerized and pupils were provided free textbooks.

In short span of time Azerbaijan transformed into tourism country. Number of Hotels has increased more than 5 times and the number of tourists visited Azerbaijan last year crossed 2 million people.

While noting success on domestic fields one should also stress on the dynamism of external relations of the state. The balanced foreign policy based on the interests of the nation transformed Azerbaijan into a leader of the region.

Located on the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is integrated into the political structures of both continents. Being a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Azerbaijan plays an active role in the OIC and the ECO and in 2011 got a membership in Non-Aligned Movement and a seat of a non-permanent member of UN SC allocated for Eastern Europe as well as became Europe’s main partner in the region. And, 2013 is also marked as a last year of foreign troops presence in Azerbaijan.

As a result of growing political prestige and economical strength of the country number of international mega events were  held in Azerbaijan. Eurovision 2012, Women World Cup-17, First European Olympic Games 2015, number of world and European championships, international conferences etc. are just some of them.

Despite  all efforts the Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still remains unresolved. This urges the Government to strengthen its military power. The total military expenditures of Azerbaijan increased from U.S. $ 160 in 2003 by 23 times reaching 3,48 billion in 2013. The weapons changing the strategic balance in the region were purchased. The country also owns the best equipped Frontier Services in the region and the second strongest navy in Caspian Sea.

The defense industry enabling to increase the country’s military might has been established. Azerbaijani defense industry currently manufactures about 700 types of military products and is in capacity to meet the needs of the Ministry of Defense in number of weapons and ammunition.

The Government also introduced dynamic juridical reforms. In the framework of them the economic courts were established, population in the regions got easier access to the courts, two national concepts on human rights and the law on ex-presidents were adopted, Constitutional reforms were carried out, thousands of prisoners were pardoned etc.

The lasts years were notably remarkable for media. The mechanism of public support to media was created, reasonable funds were allocated to its support, internet freedom has been secured and the online media has developed, the project to provide housing for journalists was initiated as well.

A lot was done to further promote of Islamic values in the country – construction of hundreds of new mosques, renovations of shrines, establishment of religious institutions etc. is a vivid manifestation of this fact.

The writer is consulting Editor Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA) and a renowned TV anchor of Pakistan.