Political parties will also be fined: changes to controversial law are approved

Government seeks to control foreign political activities of parties.

Milli Majlis. Source: shutterstock/aquatarkus

New penalties have been established in Azerbaijan for violations of legislation regarding political parties.

President Ilham Aliyev signed a law amending the Administrative Offences Code on August 16, addressing this issue.

According to the amendments, individuals engaging in the establishment or operation of foreign states’ political parties, as well as their branches and organizations, will face fines ranging from 700 to 1,000 Azerbaijani manats. Officials will be subject to fines ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 AZN, and legal entities will face fines from 6,000 to 8,000 AZN.

Additionally, physical individuals may be fined from 700 to 1,000 AZN, and legal entities from 1,500 to 2,000 AZN, for actions such as making decisions or signing documents related to a party’s activities, taken by organs (structural institutions) whose authority period has ended.

Furthermore, individuals may face fines ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 AZN, and legal entities from 2,000 to 3,000 AZN, for failing to provide information to the relevant executive authority about changes in the party’s registry within the period specified by the “Law on Political Parties.”

These changes have sparked discussions among political figures. Arif Hajili, the chairman of the Musavat Party, expressed concern that these amendments would further intensify the constrained political competition in the country.

Hajili stated that these changes allow the government to maintain constant oversight over political parties, making it easier for authorities to impose heavy fines and even shut down parties. He also noted that these amendments aim to restrict not only the internal political activities of parties but also their foreign political engagements.

Rashad Bayramov, the head of the Central Council of the National Independence Party, believes that the changes do not improve the situation for already struggling parties and may create additional challenges.

Legal expert Hafiz Hasanov also voiced his concerns, stating that the amendments limit the essence of political parties and their activities in the country, ultimately undermining democratic principles.

It is argued that if the law is applied uniformly to all parties, it will hinder the development and functioning of parties in the country, limiting their ability to operate effectively.

The amendments to the “Law on Political Parties” were passed in the Azerbaijani National Assembly in December 2022, despite domestic and international objections. President Ilham Aliyev approved the law in January 2023. The new law requires parties to gather signatures from 5,000 members and undergo individual scrutiny.

In recent months, over 30 parties in Azerbaijan have disbanded. Many party leaders have reported learning of their parties’ dissolution through government-aligned media outlets. This has raised concerns about political pluralism and democratic rights in the country.

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