The Azerbaijan Ministry of Justice has, after a long time, registered the opposition Republican Alternative Party (ReAL) and the National Front Party (MCP) as political parties functioning in the country, Turan news agency reported on Tuesday.
“A few months ago, when the presidential administration told us that there were changes in the policy of registration of political parties and several previously unregistered parties were registered, we decided to take advantage of a change in the state's policy change,” Turan quoted ReAL party chair Ilgar Mammadov as saying.
On 19 August, the party submitted the required documents to the Ministry of Justice, he added.
It came days after Mammadov had a short meeting with Adalat Valiyev, head of the Presidential Administration's Department for Relations with Political Parties and Legislative Authority on July 1, when both sides reportedly exchanged views on socio-political developments in the country.
“We reiterated the importance of President Ilham Aliyev's initiative for political dialogue. I also pointed out the difficulties the Republican Alternative Party faces in party registration. Mr. Valiyev said that at a time when the founding congress could not be held normally due to pandemic conditions, the founding congress held in video conference mode could also be used as a basis for the state registration,” Mammadov said on his Facebook.
ReAL was founded as a movement in 2009. In April of 2018, the party held their founding congress online, as the party members were not provided with a necessary building to come together in. It was officially indicated as the main reason why the party was denied registration back then.
On 31 August, ReAL was registered along with another party MCP, established as a breakaway party from the main opposition Azerbaijan People's Front Party (AXCP) in 2015.
“We believe this change is one of the foundations for real political reforms in the country,” Mammadov told Turan.
Azerbaijani authorities arrested Mammadov in February 2013, shortly after he announced plans to challenge President Ilham Aliyev in the October 2013 presidential election. Since being released in August of 2018, Mammadov has been acquitted by the Supreme Court.
ReAL is now represented by one member, deputy Erkin Gadirli, in parliament. Gadirli was elected in the snap election of this year, whose election to the parliament was not unequivocally welcomed in society.
MCP party leader Razi Nurullayev was also elected as a deputy in the recent parliamentary election, which both the opposition and international observers regard as being rigged in favor of the ruling party.
Aliyev's ruling party won a majority of seats, securing 65 in the 125-member parliament in the snap elections held on 9 February, according to exit polls.
Critics say opposition party registration after blatant fraud in the recent elections is part of Aliyev's continuing efforts to marginalize the opposition under the guise of political reforms.