Presidential elections: Azerbaijan to vote for future
By Muhammad Asif Noor
Director of Institute of Peace and Diplomacy of Pakistan
Azerbaijan, known as "Tiger of Caucuses", will be going into presidential polls in October this year. With only few months left for electing the new head of state, unofficial polls are anticipating the re-election of incumbent President Ilham Aliyev for a consecutive third term.
These predictions are based on the facts and dividends that policies of President Ilham Aliyev has brought to the Azerbaijani nation and elevated Azerbaijan as a powerful country amongst nations of the world, especially recent winning of seat of United Nation's Security Council (UNSC) as a non permanent member.
The presidential elections have been scheduled for October, while the parliamentary elections will be held in 2015. Candidates have yet to submit their nominations for the elections, but the ruling New Azerbaijan Party has nominated Ilham Aliyev as its candidate.
In June when party had its fifth congress, President Aliyev was reelected as chairman.
The final list of candidates for president of Azerbaijan will become known in September, when the registration deadline set by the Central Election Commission expires.
President Ilham Aliyev has been ruling the country after the death of his father in 2003. A constitutional amendment introduced in 2009 removed a two term limit for holding the presidency. He inherited the responsibility of permanent building up of Azerbaijani state from his late father and took it with such a marvelous manner that the legacy goes on without an interruption.
Azerbaijan has further modernized and developed during the last ten years of tenures of President Ilham Alyev. He has built the nation with a vision of modernity and keeping the future in mind. He has also made strong steps in not only making headways in foreign policy, but also took initiatives regarding building up of economy and social standards of Azerbaijan. These are the reasons that the unofficial polls done by various agencies are reflecting on the reelection of President Aliyev for his policies towards the country and the people. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has recently been conferred an award of "President of Decade" in Turkic countries, the Middle East and the South Caucasus, as a result of a survey conducted by the Turkish Ekovitrin magazine. The media group organized this survey involving 270,992 respondents.
President Ilham Aliyev made headways in making Azerbaijan's presence felt in world's energy markets. The oil strategy is based on his late father, national leader Heydar Aliyev's vision for the country and thus made the mills and grids of Azerbaijan to move, including improvement in economic, political, social and other spheres. If we look at the last decade of the rule we can only see the rise of Azerbaijan as a powerful country in the Caucuses and a significant energy hub for the region, which all are due to the directions of a visionary leader. Because of Azerbaijan, the region has become one of the energy and economic political power house of the world. One cannot now envision regional energy security without Azerbaijan, which hosts the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and pipelines.
This significant rise has also resulted in presence of Azerbaijan in UNSC as a non permanent member, which is a much deserved victory for a country like Azerbaijan that is playing its unique role as a bridge between East and West, North and South.
President Ilham Aliyev has not only concentrated on making a true reflection of Azerbaijan as one of the greatest nations of the world, but also improving wellbeing and economic uplift of the people. As a head of state, President Ilham Aliyev has given his vision in the form of a document "Azerbaijan 2020: Look into the future".
At the current stage, Azerbaijan's economy has been diversified and there is a complete assurance for development of the non-oil sector. It is also significant to note here that Azerbaijan has been referred to a list of 50 developed countries of the world. With a modern vision based on wisdom of his father, Ilham Aliyev's policies resulted in social uplift of the society in Azerbaijan.
According to a report, due to constant work of the incumbent government, the unemployment rate decreased to 5 percent, while the poverty rate also fell to a record low in 2012. At the same time, during the past ten years the volume of investment in Azerbaijan's economy has exceeded $130 billion. Azerbaijan has become one of the largest exporters of oil and gas to Europe and a significant player in energy security of the region. Having become a gas exporter, Azerbaijan started to play an important role in ensuring the European energy security. The Azerbaijani-Turkish Trans-Anatolia gas pipeline project (TANAP) is one of the pipelines that will connect the whole region in a grid, thus making the balancing act of peace within the region.
Optimum utilization of diplomacy and forums are few of the unique features of President Ilham Aliyev's vision for drawing world's attention, especially bringing in the spotlight the the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia.
Due to the continues role of Azerbaijan as venue for discussions on the intercultural dialogue, global political and economic problems including Baku International Humanitarian Forum, World Economic Forum, the South Caucasus Forum, Eurovision song contest, the Krans Montana Forum, the Intercultural Dialogue Forum and the World Summit of Religious Leaders, the country became the hub of economic, social and political activities of international nature. These forums have also helped put forward Azerbaijan's vision and role as a country having a key to the stability of the region. All credits go to President Ilham Aliyev for these kinds of initiatives for the country.
Reviewing President Aliyev's domestic policy, we can well evaluate the social and civic development in the country. The dividends of oil industry have been utilized to foster forward stable and steady domestic development. For the past ten years, the employment ratio, poverty and other basic development indicators reflected an upsurge. As a result of vision and policies of the incumbent government the poverty rate has decreased from 50 percent down to 7 percent in the past 10 years. As a result of targeted social and economic policy in the last ten years, GDP has increased by 3.4 times, its per capita share by three times, industrial production by 2.8 times, income of the state budget by 19 times, while the ratio of the budget deficit to GDP did not exceed one percent. This kind of progress is something that can be ranked as impressive by any account.
Major development and economic institutions like world bank and others are encouraging the government to take initiatives beyond relying on the oil sector. These organizations are helping Azerbaijan to develop those projects which are non-oil based and are directly connected to the population. Such projects are visible, viable and sustainable.
President Ilham Aliyev, while following his father's footsteps, is more interested in spending money on citizen development projects. Much of the investment has now been directed to develop agriculture and tourism industries, water supply and treatment, railway and road transport, as well as to improve health and education sectors.
Also, huge investments made in large scale infrastructure projects throughout the country have brought significant changes in the outlook of the country beyond recognition, while there is remarkable increase in the living standard of an ordinary Azerbaijani. As a result of the program, implemented by incumbent government of President Ilham Aliyev, the links between villages and cities has been expanded to eliminate a gap between the capital and countryside population.
The government is also focusing on building state of the art educational opportunities for youth and professionals. In this regard, more than 2,500 schools have been built along with various institutions and Universities. Hundreds of healthcare institutions, sports and social infrastructure facilities have been constructed. Special credit goes to the incumbent government of Azerbaijan for providing all facilities to the internally displaced persons who have lost their precious loved ones and property as a result of aggression of Armenia. Recently the government has provided support to more than 20,000 people.
These are the reason that popularity of President Illham Aliyev is still growing and it seems obvious that he will be the next President of modern Azerbaijan.