On 18th April Ilham Aliyev shall be inaugurated for the fourth time as President of Azerbaijan. His re-election comes as no shock. It’s so predictable that it barely counted as ‘news’ and consequently received subsequent to no protection in the worldwide media.
Initially the election was scheduled for 17th October, however at 9 weeks discover Aliyev introduced that it might be introduced ahead by six months with out clear justification. In an identical manipulation of the structure Aliyev used a plebiscite in September 2016 to elongate the presidential time period from 5 years to seven years. Earlier limitations on the quantity of phrases in workplace had already been eliminated in 2009. Aliyev’s New Azerbaijan Social gathering (arrange by his father Heydar Aliyev) has gained all parliamentary elections since 2000.
With out fail the Central Election Committee formally confirmed Ilham Aliyev gained 86.02% of the vote on a 74.three turnout, and rubber stamped by the Constitutional Courtroom on 17 April. But, regardless of Aliyev’s impregnable place, there was nonetheless proof of poll stuffing and double voting. As with earlier elections opposition events boycotted the election to protest the restrictive legislative and political surroundings. Azerbaijan’s most outstanding opposition politician, Ilgar Mammadov, has been in jail since 2013, alongside over 140 different political prisoners
The primary hyperlink in the chain that binds Azerbaijan is the Aliyev autocracy; Ilham Aliyev’s full management of the equipment of authorities and the structure, as properly as a marginalised political opposition.
This April’s election confirms Aliyev’s maintain on energy till 2025. By then he may have been the nation’s autocrat for twenty years. He inherited the presidency from his father, Heydar, in 2003. When Ilham completes his new time period, the Aliyevs, father and son, may have been in management of Azerbaijan virtually constantly for 54 years. A yr in the past Ilham appointed his spouse as Vice President, so the dynasty is about to proceed.
Heydar Aliyev had been the communist chief of Azerbaijan when it was a state inside the Soviet Union, however he misplaced his place when charged with corruption by President Gorbachev in 1987. By the finish of 1993 Heydar Aliyev had returned to energy and, partly by means of negotiating the ceasefire in the struggle with Armenia, he oversaw a interval of stabilisation. This stability got here at a price: political pluralism. This development continued beneath his son’s regime, and has solely been meekly contested at worldwide degree as Azerbaijan’s oil and fuel belongings have been of larger curiosity to consuming nations. (We element this in our e-book ‘The Oil Road – Journeys from the Caspian Sea to The City of London’.)
Final week, one of the first worldwide figures to congratulate Ilham Aliyev on his election victory was President Putin. Aliyev is a vital ally to Russia as properly as Turkey; for Azerbaijan is variously seen as a bulwark towards Iran, to the south; a safe airborne provide path to US troops in Afghanistan; and an financial bridgehead for the EU into Central Asia.
The second hyperlink in the chain that binds Azerbaijan is the help given to the Aliyev clan by overseas powers.
While in jail, the opposition politician Illgar Mamadov managed to have a press release revealed on Open Democracy in January 2017 entitled ‘A letter from an inmate of the Southern Gas Corridor’. In the piece he defined the ‘flawed worldwide attitudes that assist maintain democrats locked in the prisons of the “clever autocrats” who’re, in flip, courted by retrograde forces inside at this time’s democracies’. He wrote:
‘I will tell the story of how plans for a giant pipeline that would suck gas from Azerbaijan to Italy, the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), impacts on Azerbaijan’s political prisoners.’
The Southern Fuel Hall is the string of pipelines, SCPX, TANAP and TAP – higher recognized as the Euro-Caspian Mega Pipeline – that is at present being constructed throughout Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania and Italy. The plan is that it can carry fuel from the Azeri fields offshore in the Caspian Sea to the shoppers of Western Europe. The European Fee has decreed that it’s critical to the EU’s future power safety and particularly as a way of decreasing member states’ dependence on fuel imports from Russia. (In Azerbaijan, ECMP’s social, financial and environmental impacts are, unsurprisingly, not debated publicly, nor are they even half of any participatory decision-making course of).
As has been constantly highlighted by a world marketing campaign involving Re: Widespread, 350.Org, Bankwatch, Counter Stability, Platform and lots of others, this three,500 lengthy pipeline will drive local weather change by locking the EU into fuel consumption till at the least 2050. Moreover, at a time when fuel consumption in Europe is falling, this large development has been deemed a Challenge of Widespread Curiosity by the EU and lately given loans amounting to €three.1 bn by the European Financial institution of Reconstruction and Improvement (EBRD) and the European Funding Financial institution (EIB).
So decided have been EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic and Local weather & Power Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete that in July final yr they wrote to Dr Werner Hoyer Director of the EIB, lobbying the supposedly unbiased financial institution to offer a mortgage to the pipeline. Their letter declared that the challenge was “vital and irreplaceable” to diversify fuel imports away from Russia, that the pipeline would construct a “constructive alliance” with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and that “Europe’s commitment must not wane.” (This angle inside the EU in the direction of Alivey would clarify why its response to the clear fraudulence of final weeks’ election was so weak).
Equally hanging is the obvious perception of the EIB in Azerbaijan’s dedication to transparency and entry to info. The financial institution accepted wholesale a affirmation given to the European Exterior Motion Service stating that regardless of its withdrawal from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) (in the face of doubtless expulsion), Azerbaijan “will continue to work in line with EITI principles of revenue transparency and disclose all information related to revenues received from the extractive industries to the full extent”. It’s clear that assessments by the lenders to the pipeline are knowingly opaque and breach their very own zero-tolerance coverage towards fraud and corruption.
The third hyperlink in chain that binds Azerbaijan is the ECMP fuel pipeline and the European Fee’s insistence on fuel as being very important to the EU’s future safety.
However the firms that are constructing ECMP, and personal both the pipeline or the fuel which it should suck out of Azerbaijan, usually are not doing so to help EU safety, they’re doing so to generate return on capital. These are personal revenue making corporations, ‘responsible to their shareholders’, to not EU ministers. That is the case for BP who’s the lead participant in ECMP. For BP the pipeline is about securing its place in Azerbaijan over the long run. Whether or not or not it believes that ECMP, by itself, is worthwhile, it is aware of that it’s the worth to pay for its persevering with entry to Azeri assets. And Azerbaijan is one of BP’s most necessary ‘profit centres’.
On 14th September final yr a BP led consortium and Ilham Aliyev signed a brand new manufacturing sharing settlement for the offshore ACG oil subject. It was 23 years to the month that BP had signed the unique settlement, the so-called ‘Contract of the Century’, in 1994 – the deal that cemented Ilham’s father’s grip on energy. This new settlement extends to 2050. By that yr Ilham can be 88. His father lived to 80, so maybe he’ll nonetheless be in energy? Or maybe could have handed away and his spouse will rule? There are, in any case, solely three extra presidential elections – in 2032, 2039 and 2046 – to undergo.
The fourth hyperlink in chain that binds Azerbaijan is BP’s help for the Aliyev dynasty. Accepting his election victory Ilham Aliyev stated “People voted for stability, security, and development.” These are precisely the the reason why BP assisted Aliyev’s father in coming to energy. What the firm wants is these three issues to make sure a worthwhile return on its large investments in Azerbaijan, and that is why they help ‘their autocrat’.
BP is a lynch pin of the Aliyev regime for it’s Azerbaijan’s largest overseas investor and elementary to the manufacturing and export of oil and fuel which solely dominates the financial system. The corporate is completely positioned to carry out the perform that Aliyev requires of it, to offer revenues for the state but in addition to cement worldwide alliances. Regardless of its identify BP is (in phrases of shareholders and executives) arguably a US company, however it’s also inextricably interwoven with Russia, and arguably the Putin regime. And since of being a British establishment for a century, it has had seemingly unshakeable help from Westminster, Whitehall and the British Institution.
This interlinking of a capital concern with Aliyev’s key overseas allies mirrors the behaviour of the Azeri elite. For the Aliyev clan doesn’t stand alone, its grip on energy relies upon upon the help of an array of different Azeri households and people who’ve amassed huge fortunes over the previous 20 years while a lot of the nation, particularly past Baku, has languished in poverty. Azerbaijani society has advanced alongside strains just like that of Russia, turning into what many confer with as an autocratic kleptocracy.
The current ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’ investigation by The Guardian confirmed the extent to which fraud and corruption has propped up the present Azerbaijani regime. This £2.2bn scheme, centred in the UK and used to pay lobbyists, apologists and European politicians as properly as to launder money, ran between 2012 and 2014. On common $3m was channelled out of Azerbaijan every single day.
In the previous months, following the nerve agent assault in Salisbury, there was a lot protection of the presence of Russian kleptocratic cash being harboured and spent in London. The identical story might be advised of the wealth acquired by the Azeri elite which is spent on artwork and property in London.
An ideal instance of this connection between the UK and the Azeri ruling class is seen in Leyla Aliyeva, the President’s daughter. Educated at Queen’s School for Women, Harley Road, she now owns a penthouse over wanting Hyde Park and is the official editor of ‘Baku’ journal, overlaying worldwide artwork and trend, and run out of Conde Nast close to Oxford Circus in London. And to spotlight the significance of tradition as a way of garnering worldwide help, her mom, the Vice President Merihban Aliyeva, is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. (We element these connections in our e-book ‘All That Glitters – Sport, BP and Repression in Azerbaijan’.)
The fifth hyperlink in chain that binds Azerbaijan comes from the embedding of the Azeri elite into the world of British finance, property and artwork.
Azeri freedom, the risk for its residents to decide on the political buildings they want slightly than dwelling in an autocracy bolstered by overseas states, depends on breaking these 5 hyperlinks in the chain. This actuality is well-known to those that have sought to talk out towards the Aliyev regime. Regardless of on going threats, civil society activists proceed their work – they embrace allies and buddies of ours Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev, Emin Huseynov, Khadija Ismayilova, Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunus.
The Aliyev regime depends upon the sale of oil and fuel. Consequently the Azeri authorities will do all it could to make sure that it’s extracting and exporting hydrocarbons for as lengthy as attainable. Legally the ACG oil area and the ECMP fuel pipeline are set to stay in place till 2050. However the Earth’s local weather can’t maintain carbon emissions at its present degree till that date. One thing should give, and the closing down of fields such as ACG is important if we’re to sluggish or halt local weather change. These oil & fuel fields and the oil & fuel pipelines have to be pressured by civil society to grow to be stranded belongings lengthy earlier than they see out their projected authorized lifespans. This won’t occur whereas the Aliyev regime stays in energy. Curbing local weather change and curbing the Aliyev regime go hand in hand.
We stand by our allies & pals in the Azerbaijani democracy motion, We stand by our decided opposition to the personal firms who drive the destruction of the local weather of their blind pursuit of return on capital.
Collectively we’ll break the chain!
By Nathalie Losekoot and James Marriott. With because of Emma Hughes