“The president is not at all concerned”, assures Shamsaddin Hajiyev
The opposition is moving to resist the referendum on proposed changes to the Constitution.
However, deputies representing the ruling party in parliament are confident that the people will say ‘yes’ to the changes. Yevda Abramov, deputy chair of the National Assembly’s Committee for Human Rights, who is directly responsible for the referendum, stated on Radio Azadlıq, “The people will, 100%, say ‘yes’ in the referendum. We are attending gatherings, having discussions, and the people are saying ‘that this referendum is being conducted in a very modern fashion’. Write that down, word for word”.
And now we present Radio Azadlıq’s interview with Shamsaddin Hajiyev, chairman of the Committee for Science and Education.
-Muallim Shamsaddin, what do you think, are changes to the Constitution needed? How do you justify these proposals?
– Changes were made twice to the current constitution – in 2002 and 2009. Major changes have taken place between 2009 and the present day. The country has entered a new stage, we have entered the post-oil period, we are forming a new sort of society, and significant programs have been set in motion. All this necessitates some changes to the Constitution. Changes not made at the correct time can produce very negative results. As such, they need to be made in a timely manner, since these changes must provide the legal basis for pending business.
– What processes are we talking about, that they require changes to the legal base?
– Very serious political and economic reforms are taking place in the country. For this to happen, in order to speed up these reforms and increase their effectiveness, property relations and the system of governance must be improved, and changes must be made to institutional bases.
– On the topic of ‘institutional changes’, the institution of the vice-presidency is being established. What does this administrative position change, what is its significance?
– The vice-presidency is a change aimed at improving the institutional bases of administration. This is a transfer of power… There existed some gaps that will be filled. The internal and external development of Azerbaijan has become multi-directional. The president will no longer handle certain questions personally, but will hand them over to the newly-formed institution. For example, some international accords, inter-governmental agreements, etc. Or, if the president for some reason cannot fulfill his duties, they will be performed by the first vice-president. These changes are characteristic of democratic society and should simply be welcomed.
– But domestic and international critics of government believe that the proposed changes are in no way necessary, saying that they restrict rights and freedoms in the country.
– I assert the opposite. The new changes are aimed at strengthening the rights and freedoms of citizens, in the true meaning of the word, and at forming a lawful society. For example, human dignity, respect for it, relations between civil servants and employees, not disseminating personal information without the individual’s permission… Does the opposition not read this, do they not see it?
– You spoke of disseminating information without the permission of its owner. Let’s say there are some facts about a particular civil servant, which are of import to the public, but this civil servant does not give permission for this information to be disseminated. In your opinion, is it right, that his sort of information be withheld from the public?
– We are speaking of the dissemination of information about one’s personal life. But nobody can interfere with dissemination of information regarding his or her professional activities. In this regard everyone is responsible before the law, from the president to the simple citizen. And the opposition is asserting that this is aimed at violating human rights. This is nothing but absurd.
– Is it necessary to get rid of the age requirement?
– Of course. Just think, the right to vote begins at 18 years of age. But the right to be elected is a little different. A young person wishing to take part in the parliamentary elections can be elected after 25 years of age, be elected chairperson of the Council of Ministers or to legal organs after 30, and can be elected president after 35. If you have the right to vote, why should you have the right to be elected? At present in the country there are more than five million voters. The number of citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 is about 3 million. Why should we violate their rights? What could be more progressive than this?
– But the right to be elected is an exception. To be elected, you should be deserving of this. You should be educated, worldly, and experienced – and this state of being must be reached gradually.
– And who’s saying that we’ll elect an 18-year-old kid as a parliamentary deputy?
– But he’s already been given this right.
– We don’t have to deny him this right. He must put forth his candidacy, announce his platform. As for whether or not he’ll be elected, that’ the voters’ business. Do you not agree?
– If an 18-year-old young man will not be elected, then why is he being given this right on paper?
– You need to think more positively, we’re speaking of more than two million people. Why should they be denied this right?
– Muallim Shamsaddin, let’s be precise. A little earlier, you said “Who’s saying that we’ll elect an 18-year-old kid as parliamentary deputy”. You then said “We’re giving young people the right to be elected”. An opinion has developed regarding these changes, according to which the abolition of age restrictions for election will not, in fact, affect everyone, but rather only specific individuals, with the goal of establishing an Aliyev monarchy.
– (Laughs). What is this absurdity? More than two million young people will have the right to elect and to be elected. The number of candidates to the post of president will increase. If these were restrictive measures, the age requirement would be raised to forty years. This question is not connected with somebody’s wishes… I’m sure that the people received this with elation and will vote for it. Look what’s happening in the world – in neighboring Turkey, in the Arabic world. The changes include defending the national security, work to prevent the transfer of the revolution here. I am for these measures and would support even stricter changes. Our greatest values are stability and independence. Several large governments are implementing their plans here, interfering in the independent politics of Azerbaijan. However this is not possible. Our president is brave and as such we are a long ways from such consequences.
– The June 15 attempted coup in Turkey demonstrated that if a large portion of the people doesn’t want change, it’s difficult to overturn power. If the Azerbaijani people don’t wish for these changes, why is the government so concerned? If the government is sure of the people’s support, why make stricter laws?
– The president is in no way concerned. The changes have simply been put forth for a general vote. We are confident that they will be adopted. Nobody is concerned about anything, on the contrary, they are calm. Maybe the opposition, if it can be called that, are the ones concerned? They’d know better. They are concerned because we’re creating a strong, lawful government, and ensuring the rule of law. They are concerned that we’re creating a regulated economy, a liberal society. Why are they concerned about?
– Perhaps they’re concerned about restrictions on rights in the country, about the numerous political prisoners, the falling manat
, rising prices, unemployment… They are waiting for steps in this direction.
– The entire world is going through a financial crisis. All this is temporary. That’s what happens during a crisis. This is not a telephone conversation. Anyone who understands even a little economics knows how these processes work. We have an economy tied to oil, and that’s no secret. The price of oil fell four times – this was to be expected. The president has already prepared a conception of the post-oil period; real work is being done in the country.
– Could no steps have been taken previous to the crisis, in case an oil crisis were to develop?
– What year did the program for social development in the regions begin? I could give hundreds of examples that the development of the non-oil sector didn’t begin just last year.
– And yet there’s no result.
– Time is needed. Agriculture cannot be reconstructed in a day, and nor can import dependence be reduced in a day… Our discussion’s run over (laughs). Best wishes on Kurban Bayram.
-The same to you.
This article was originally published in Russian on