A politician in exile, former speaker of the parliament of the Azerbaijan republic, the current leader of the Azerbaijanian democratic party, a potential candidacy for the position of the Azerbaijan president, Rasul Gouliev, gave an interview to PRAVDA.Ru
Question: Mr. Gouliev, you are considered to be the favorite for the next presidential elections campaign. Nevertheless, you are now living in the USA and can not return to your motherland. What is the reason of such a situation? Do you have plans to get back to Azerbaijan?
Answer: You have to understand the nature of the current regime in Azerbaijan in order to realize the reason of my stay in the USA. I think that the world community is aware of the numerous facts of the human rights violations in Azerbaijan. These include repeated falsification of : election results,, arrests of people who are not suitable for authorities, absence of independent TV, persecutions of journalists , and so long and so forth -- but this is not the legacy of the Soviet regime. You know, during the years of the USSR, the totalitarian system had, despite all the atrocities, a concrete public objective. First, during Stalin years, it was an idea of establishing the first state of “workers and peasants” in the world, then during Khrushchev years, it was an idea of building communism, then, during Brezhnev, a desire to avoid any threats to the existing system, etc. The dictatorship, which has been formed in the republic, after Heydar Aliyev came to power there, totally rejects any public objectives. The immorality of the regime is of such magnitudes, that the corruption and bribery have become the foundations of the state policy, and Heydar Aliyev is personally heading the process. I may say that the new independent states had more or less equal starting conditions, but as a result of different regimes that were formed in those countries, they all are on different stages of the socio-economic development after the ten years of independence. Azerbaijan is on one of the last positions. In the beginning I believed, like the majority of the Azerbaijanian people, that Heydar Aliyev would assist greatly in the development of the republic, having his experience, but it did not take me long to get disappointed in my hopes. My constant speeches against the regime that we had could not but lead to my dismissal from the position of the parliamentary speaker. I have written several books since 1996, living in the USA, analyzing the socio-economic situation in the country, unveiling the tragic consequences of Aliyev’s policy. Of course, they are doing everything possible not to allow a person, who poses a threat for their regime, gain entry to the country. They resort to primitive methods practiced in a dictatorship: initiating criminal cases with charges of conspiring against the state and on corruption, arresting relatives, friends and colleagues, constantly applying informational pressure. But I have never stopped struggling for my return to Azerbaijan. My supporters are also actively involved in this matter, and I hope this issue will be resolved soon. Q: You were the speaker of the Azerbaijanian parliament (which is called Milli Mejlis). Can you describe the situation with democratic freedoms in the republic? What were the relations between the legislative and the executive branches of power in Azerbaijan, when you used to take that position? What is happening now?
A: I have already outlined the situation with democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan. Speaking about the relations between the legislative and executive branches of power there, then I can say that I was struggling for the independence of the parliament, when I was the speaker. I had some progress, I have to say. I was doing my best to create the conditions for freedom of speech and thought, but all these aspects caused great concern for Mr.Aliyev and the contradiction was growing between us. When I left, the parliament actually turned to one of the departments of the presidential office and that department was not among the most important ones. If at least 20% of parliamentarians were elected democratically in 1995, then at the elections of the year 2000 all 124 deputies were appointed by Aliyev personally, even those, who is said to be within the opposition. The presidential elections of the spring of 1998 and parliamentarian elections in 2000 were totally falsified by Aliyev, who created illegitimate state institutions. Q: How can you characterize the relations between the power and the opposition in the republic? Are there any parties, which can be called the opposition? Is incumbent President Aliyev ready to work with his critics? What do you think is the need in the opposition?
A: A strong opposition is one of the major conditions of the normal society. Opposition in the life of a democratic society is like competition in the market economy. There is opposition within every human being, when a person is making a decision. When you are about to do something important, there is always an idea in your mind, which says you should do it other way. This makes you think it over and over again, before you come out with your decision. So if there is no opposition in a country, then it shows that the society in this county is not healthy. When it comes to the concept of “constructive opposition, this title in itself is actually very controversial and is usually being used with a “tip” from a dictator. In my opinion, any opposition group that presents a position against the ruling government and functions within constitution, is “constructive”. As far as Mr.Aliyev is concerned, I believe, he is not going to be able to find a common language with the opposition, and he has never actually tried to do it. It is his mindset: a good opponent is a silent opponent. Since the presence of an opposition is a main condition of a development of a nation, a ruler should actually be interested in creating and strengthening an opposition in case if none exists. Q: Is Heydar Aliyev ready to organize the fair presidential elections? Or has he already chosen a successor?
A: Heydar Aliyev and fair presidential elections is like an oxymoron. These two notions do not come together, as the process is falsified from the beginning to the end, and the outcomes, including the percentages of votes, are determined up front. In these conditions, it is not reasonable to try to draw an analogy between Yeltsin’s act of December 1999 and Aliyev’s attempt to forcefully bring his son Ilkham to power. First, Putin’s rating was very high at the time he became the president, I. Aliyev’s rating is close to zero. Second, by then Putin had already proved his abilities in running a Government, when Ilkham was proving his abilities of loosing money in a casino. And finally, the presidential elections in Russia were fair and free, while there are no such chances for the republic of Azerbaijan. Putin sees Russia’s future as a modern, civilized, democratic state, which could allow to restore the status of a super-power. Q: How can you characterize Heydar Aliyev's policy towards Russia?
A: First and foremost I would like to say there is no foreign politics in Azerbaijan aimed at the development of Azerbaijan’s strategic interests. Aliyev determines his foreign policy only based on the possible effects on his rule. Instead of building deep and stable relations with the Russian Federation, Aliyev is busy with strengthening his personal links only.
Q: The party, at which you are the leader – the Azerbaijanian democratic party, evidently has its own political and economic program. Which are the basic provisions of the program?
A: Our party stands for the deepest political and economic reforms in the country. I will try to give you the description of their major principles. As far as the political sphere is concerned – the creation of the balance between the executive and legislative branches of power, setting up independent courts. As I mentioned before, legislative and judicial powers are mere subordinates of the executive, and the legal framework itself gives too much power to executive branch. This needs to be changed. The large scale privatization of the national economy is the top priority objective in the field of economy. For the time being the privatization is extremely slow, and even if it happens, the corruption and bribery make it completely pointless. We are not going to restrict ourselves to the privatization of small enterprises only. Within 2 or three years we are planning to cut the share of the state property in the national economy to the level of 25-30% (its is 80% now) and this is not where we will stop. Also, there is a need for deep structural reforms in the government, and administrative (territorial) reforms.
Q: Does your party has a position regarding the Karabakh conflict, which lasts for 20 years already?
A: Of course our party has a position pertaining to this issue. We believe that the conflict should be settled on the ground of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, observing the rights of all citizens, living in the region. At the same time, the initial condition for solving the conflict is free and fair elections both in Azerbaijan, as well as in Armenia. A compromise can only be achieved by leaders ho have proper mandates from their people. This mandate does not exist today either in Azerbaijan or in Armenia. Because of the great influence that Russia has in the region, and the fact that Russia itself is a victim to an aggressive separatism, it can play a key role in settling the conflict.
Q: What is your attitude about the Caspian problem?
A: We stand for the division of the bottom of the Caspian sea in sections, and I am glad that the position of our countries on this issue is very close. Speaking about the ecological problem, the water pollution, then these issues are supposed to be solved on the ground of the decisions, made by all Caspian countries. Besides, we stand for the demilitarization of the Caspian Sea.
Q: What is your opinion about Azerbaijan's place in the Commonwealth of Independent States?
A: I would like to express my opinion regarding the present state of things in the Commonwealth first. Now it looks like a building without the foundation. The attempts to activate the CIS structure have been unsuccessful because of the absence of integrating processes. Some mention the EU example, saying that the processes like that take long time. But our countries were very close to with other ten years ago, they were all one country. Frankly speaking, I doubt that the countries of the former Soviet Union can set up another structure, in which they would be united. The former Soviet republics are all different, they all have their own economic and political regimes, when a union requires a common political and economical ground. The union that we have now is merely about declaring the friendly relations, which maybe good for Russia in moral terms, and calms the dictators that no threat is posed by the Russian Federation on their regimes. I see the future of the CIS as the union with a very deep political and economic integration and Azerbaijan must take a worthy place there. But again, for the Union to be beneficial for people and not be merely political in nature, it would need to be built on some common political and economic grounds and consist of members with similar regimes.
Q: Do you have a feeling of living in exile? What do you do? Is your family with you? Where do you live? Do you miss your home?
A: I live in New York, 40 minutes drive from the city. My family is here with me in America. I have met with the American political figures during all these years, trying to convince them in the development of the democratic processes in Azerbaijan. I wrote four books. Besides, like I mentioned it, I govern the activity of my political party and this takes most of the time. I do not try to think I am living in exile. Every day I do everything I can to return to Azerbaijan. God willing, it will happen in the near future. Q: What did America give you? Experience? Knowledge? A possibility to look back, to look at your country from the outside, to see the reaction of the international community to the events in Azerbaijan?
A: I guess you have answered this question yourself.
Q: The governmental sources of information in Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan) alleged that you will promote the interests of the United States in the republic, if you are elected president. So it is like a sort of the agitation against you with a goal to make the electors think in the stereotypes, which are good for the present authorities. What kind of politics are you going to run, in case you become the president of Azerbaijan?
A: The interests of the Azerbaijanian people are the top priority for me. I will try to create all the necessary conditions for observing the USA’s interests in Azerbaijan, only if those interests do not contradict the ones of the people of Azerbaijan. This principle would apply not only to the US. The doors of our republic are going to be wide open to all states, including the Russian Federation As you know, the USA is the most open country in the world. The American laws protect the citizens from the intrusion into their private life, the US legislation stipulates for the transparency of the public and state bodies in front of the people. This system made the USA become number one in the world. America is an example of what a free person can do, the achievements of the scientific and technological progress are very impressive. I think there is not only Azerbaijan that must use the results of the public, economic and technical progress in the USA. We have 200 years of history of our relations with Russia. The people of Azerbaijan would not be satisfied with the current relations with Russia. I think that the restoration of the economic links and further integration is one of the most important issues ever and this process has to be given a go as soon as possible. Both states must invest in creating favorable environment for joint ventures in oil, transport, construction, chemical and other industries. I believe it is requisite to open the border between the countries for the increase of the commodity circulation between Russia and Azerbaijan and enhance competitiveness of ruble and manat. The scientific and cultural links between the countries must be recreated, there should be conditions for their dynamic development. It is important for us to continue educating people in Russian language, as we inherited very rich intellectual material in Russian. It is very important and necessary to build the friendly relations with all neighboring countries. One of strategic directions of our government will be establishing highest communication inks between Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia.
Q: Can you name any problems, common for all the Caucasian republics?
A: I think that the Caucasian problems are of the artificial origin. But because these problems were not solved at the right time, the situation became more complicated. Only the joint efforts will help to find a way out. I think that all problems come from the dirty struggle for power, for a strong wish for personal enrichment, using the seized power. There are three major sources of conflict in the Caucasus currently: Chechnya, Karabakh and Abkhazia. The arguments, which say that the objective of those conflicts is to liberate the small nations, to fight for their rights, are nothing but a fiction of national-chauvinists who could bring their nations to tragedy. If you add hired international terrorists to them, the picture seems even more complete. Millions of Germans live in France and all over Europe after the World War II, and there is no problem like that. First of all, there is an issue of fair elections. They should take place in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. These elections would create state institutions which would represent the interests of their people. These decisions need a compromise, which can be stricken neither by Kocharian nor Aliyev since they fear that a compromise could undermine their stronghold and result in the loss of their power, which is regarded higher than the national interests. Of course, Armenia should unconditionally withdraw its troops from the occupied Azerbaijanian territories.. Then it is necessary to consider the status of the Abkhazia and Nagorny Karabakh within the structure of the democratic Azerbaijan and Georgia republics. Russia, along with anti-terrorist campaign in Chechnya, also needs to ensure free and fair elections in Chechnya and start building local governments. Russia has all opportunities to determine, who is a terrorist and who is not – the history of the Russian security services counts 400 years. These opportunities must be used in order to make the citizens become a political stronghold. The central government must give incentives to the local self-government, supervise the strict observation of the law. The allegations, saying the different nations, different religions and traditions can not live together, were made up by the ambitious go-getters, who tried to gain profit from the people’s suffering. There are thousands of different sects in the USA, however, and they all co-exist fine. Democratization would normalize people’s life and would make it hard for any terrorist to divert them from righteous path. The people are more concerned of how they live, not where they live. Bolshevik revolution based on this theory: proletariat has nothing else to loose except for its shackles. One needs to create an environment where people obtain some possessions that they could risk loosing.
Rasul Gouliev was interviewed by Inna Semyonova PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2001/12/24/35067.html