Issue No. 316 - April 12, 2003
1. Azerbaijan: READY FOR CHANGES: Interview with Isa Gambar, president of Musavat party
by Stojan Obradovic
2. Serbia and Montenegro: THE CRACKDOWN ON THE MAFIA IS ALSO A CRACKDOWN ON OLD REGIME
by Milos Jeftovic
3. Kosovo: THE STATUS OF KOSOVO CAN ONLY BE RESOLVED BY INTEGRATION INTO EUROPE: Interview with Ylber Hysa, president of Kosova Action for Civic Initiatives
by Stojan Obradovic
Azerbaijan: READY FOR CHANGES: Interview with Isa Gambar, President of the Musavat Party
by Stojan Obradovic
In October this year, people of Azerbaijan are going out to vote in presidential elections. A majority of the opposition is united in a political bloc created by the Democratic Congress, called “Our Azerbaijan.” It will put forward a single joint candidate, Isa Gambar, president of the strongest opposition party, Musavat. Opposition parties expect they will be able to change the authoritarian regime established 10 years ago, in 1993, when the former communist leader of the country and KGB general Heidar Aliyev seized power in a coup d'etat.
Isa Gambar, a 46-year old historian, talks to NIJ about the political situation in the country before elections and what future awaits Azerbaijan.
What is the current political situation in Azerbaijan?
Political life is very much influenced by upcoming presidential elections that are scheduled to be held in October 2003. These elections are of extreme importance to Azerbaijan because they will not only determine who will be president for the next 5 years but also Azerbaijan's political future and long-term orientation.
At this moment, one could say there is no real dictatorship in Azerbaijan, but there is also no true democracy. On one side are democratic forces—people, political parties, and NGOs—that are fighting for democracy, and on the other there are those who want to strengthen the authoritarian regime. I hope that the alliance of democratic forces will achieve its goal. Whatever happens, many things will be clear by the end of the year.
What are you expecting?
We have a hard road in front of us, full of difficulties, but in the end I have no doubt that democracy will win in Azerbaijan. People are tired of the current government and don't want to continue as before. That is why they will change it. The government in power now is made up of people who disinclined towards democracy. They don't want democratic elections because they know that will remove them from power, and they want to hold on to power at any price.
Two elements are crucial for future political developments. The first is the readiness of the Azeri people to face squarely the current situation and to fight for changes. The second factor is the approach taken by the international community towards the elections.
If the international community gives only declarative support to democratic elections, without practical activities and measures that might aid in ensuring that elections are free and fair, which has so far been the case, then Azerbaijan's future will depend on us only and the struggle will be much more difficult and serious. If, however, the international community gives these elections all the attention needed in today's Azerbaijan, the Azeris' readiness to bring about change will be strengthened.
Do you expect that current President Heidar Aliyev will run for another term?
It is hard to know what is going on in the heads of dictators and what they are preparing. There are several possible options for Aliyev, but whichever he chooses he will decide at the last moment. I think, however, that he will run for another term if he is physically capable.
Personally, I would very much like to face him in presidential elections. Public opinion sees Aliyev as a true exponent of communist ideology and politics. Musavat ideology is based on the national values of Azeri people, but also on international human values. It is important that any free and fair elections show that the ideas and values furthered by our party are supported by the voters and that communism cannot win. So even though many lawyers argue that Aliyev has no right to run after two presidential terms, I would like to directly face him in the elections [in order to present voters with such a choice].
Are you afraid that elections can lead to internal conflicts in Azerbaijan? Could Aliyev refuse to turn over power peacefully?
Anything can be expected from him. But I do not think he will be able to effectively fight against our rights and our victory.
What are the basic objectives of your presidential program? What will you change?
My program is based on Musavat's idea and addresses the key issues in Azerbaijan. My presidential nomination is supported by 14 parties in a political bloc called “Our Azerbaijan” and several more parties and political groups announced they would join us. Our priorities are the fight against corruption, economic reforms leading to a market economy and growth, increasing the standard of living, and political reforms establishing the rule of law. We are preparing for all-encompassing reforms that will make our country a true modern democratic country. Our goal is to implement democratic reforms and adopt democratic standards that will allow us to join the European Union in less than 10 years. Finally, our program calls for the liberation of that part of our country, Nagorno-Karabakh, which is occupied.
Can you be more precise about the Musavat idea?
Musavat is an old Azeri party. It was founded in 1911. The whole 20th century was marked in Azerbaijan by the fight between the Musavat and communist ideas.
The Musavat idea is very simple and is based on two basic principles—the independence of Azerbaijan and the well being of the Azeri people. The main motto of the Musavat Party for 90 years has been “Freedom for the people and independence for the nation.”
The Musavat [idea] means bringing to the Azeri people respect for human rights, rule of law, new employment, rebuilding the middle class in Azerbaijan, a return of occupied territories, and a fitting place of our country in the international community.
How do you intend to liberate occupied areas?
The reforms I talked about are comprehensive, inclusive, and will completely change Azerbaijan. We will free our country of corruption, establish stable and prosperous economic development, and institutionalize a solid framework for democracy. Such a transformed Azerbaijan will have an important role in the world and will enable us to achieve return of occupied territory.
Do you expect the international community to aid in the return of occupied territory or will you do it with your own forces? Can the problem of occupied territory be resolved by talks?
What is important to us is for the problem of occupied territory to be resolved according to international standards. This means that the solution must be based on territorial integrity and the respect and protection of human rights, especially minority rights. Respecting these two basic principles we can avoid a military solution. We favor negotiations. The problem, however, is whether the other side is also ready for such a solution based on respect for international law. But we cannot tolerate the loss of our territory. If the other side is not ready to accept a lawful solution, we will consider other options.
The Caspian Sea is extremely oil-rich. There is a vested interest of world powers in Azerbaijan. How is that influencing your country? What are your relations with neighboring countries regarding the oil issue?
Riches often bring with them great problems. The oil wealth of Azerbaijan may bring the country happiness, welfare, and prosperity, but it can also result in misfortune. It all depends on two elements. To what extent will the oil be rationally exploited, in accordance with its true potential, and how will superpowers and countries involved in oil exploitation in this area treat it. We think that the Caspian Sea should be divided into sectors in accordance with international law. These sectors are already well known. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia accept them, but Turkmenistan and Iran have a different approach. We hope they will realize that division into sectors is the best solution.
What are relations with Russia?
Russia is our biggest neighbor and it is only normal to have interests in this area. However, Russian interests should be harmonized with ours and based on mutual trust in order to achieve more successful relations. We believe that close economic ties between our countries are natural and necessary, but also that political relations must be based on equality and mutual respect.
Even more important, our relations must be based on taking into account the interests of the whole nation. Unfortunately, the only relevant interests until now have been those of the ruling clan of Heidar Aliyev. It has to change.
How do you see war
We support the coalition and think that the toppling of Saddam's regime is extremely important to the region and the world in general. The collapse of that regime will put an end to threats against neighboring countries along with the threat of development of weapons of mass destruction. Other dictators and authoritarian regimes can now draw their conclusions from the toppling of Saddam's regime. The world cannot develop freely while there are such regimes.
• • •
Discovering the origins of
money of many local businessmen who made an enormous fortune in a quick
time is the problem of all transition societies. It is unknown whether
the authorities can uncover illegal transactions by themselves without
the aid of the international community.
In their attempt to clean up the situation, Serbian authorities have now made swift reforms in the judicial system. Resignations, forced or voluntary, were submitted by heads of judicial departments, starting with the Supreme Court and going to state and local levels. There is a new set of criminal laws. Police custody will be prolonged to 60 days, there will be cumulative prison terms, confiscation of property, and prosecutors and their deputies will be imposed by executive branch. There were even proposal to temporarily introduce death penalty. Parts of the Serbian opposition and some diplomats point out that some proposals are not in accordance with international norms and should be in conformity with the Council of Europe. Diplomats express their support for government measures in fight against crime, but also point out that state of emergency cannot last too long. Serbian authorities discreetly rejected objections of international NGOs like Human Rights Watch regarding respect of rights of imprisoned persons. Similar was the situation with media. The government says that there are no rigid limiting rules for media, but some international journalistic organizations don't think so. Therefore one should expect a relatively fast lifting of the state of emergency because a new Serbian government is aware that it has to continue policy of reforms, respecting international norms.
• • •
Since the establishment of
an international protectorate, there have been two local elections in Kosovo
(2000 and 2002) as well as parliamentary elections held in 2001. All three
have been described by international monitors as being of the highest quality
in the region, but they had no influence in improving the building of democratic
institutions in Kosovo. There are two key reasons. One is the lack of governing
experience of the new authorities, and the other is the fact that UNMIK
has not been willing to transfer its authority to a new, elected government.
With such limits, it is difficult to achieve a better quality of institutions. UNMIK lacked a more positive dynamic or a long-term strategy. Unfortunately, there have been many improvisations in trying to respond to challenges of everyday politics.
How much are political structures or political parties in Kosovo mature and ready to accept transfer of power and take responsibility for democratic stabilization of the province?
A key problem is the non-transference of authority to local governments, which international administration perceived as a weak partner. The Kosovar government is in fact a very large coalition created by the international community.
While the international community was resolving the status of Serbia and Montenegro, it needed a weak government in Kosovo, one which would not create any problems. Unfortunately, following the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic, I think that now there are two weak actors in the region and that is not a good situation for strategic solutions.
In such circumstances, it is not easy to give the current Kosovar government more authority. However, transfer of power is not made only for one government. The transfer of authority should begin simply because it is the only way for local Kosovar institutions to start progressing, to start functioning, and to take on responsibility. This is the more so since UNMIK does not posses enough quality bureaucrats to create a better political situation in Kosovo and hasn't shown much success in administration in Kosovo, either. One should see what Kosovar government can do, give it a chance. Nobody can learn swimming without getting his feet wet. If the government is not functioning, there are always new elections where things can change. And a transfer of power is very important for improving the political scene in Kosovo.
As long as the international administration will influence the composition of the Kosovar government, especially in imposing large coalitions, there is no necessary political dynamic or competition. There is neither real government nor real opposition. Without such a dynamic, there is no quality political life and management.
How much will Kosovar authorities be ready and able to resolve relations with the Serbian community in Kosovo?
All political elements in Kosovo have accepted positive discrimination as a condition to enable minorities, primarily Serbs, to be adequately represented in power structures. Of course, that is not enough. There is much to be done for the rights of Kosovar Serbs to be protected. That is an issue the Kosovar government has to tackle. There is also a problem on the Serbian side. The Serbian community in Kosovo refuses to accept a new reality in which they are the minority and so they do not want to look for their rights in such a context. In a similar vein, Kosovar Albanians have now to understand that they are majority and are responsible for the position of the Serbian minority. That is why the transfer of authority is important—so that local structures can take up full responsibility for what is happening.
Regarding Kosovar Serbs, one should note that Belgrade as well as some Serbian politicians in Kosovo have inflamed unrealistic appetites about dividing Kosovo into cantons or about the establishment of a “Bosnian” model as a good starting position for some future division of Kosovo. It is a solution which is unacceptable to people in Kosovo, a dangerous game which doesn't contribute to political stabilization of Kosovo and establishment of a more positive interethnic atmosphere.
Such ideas about the division of Kosovo are even more dangerous given that in many areas in the region this criterion of ethnic division of territory could apply (Bosnia, Macedonia, and so on) and it would not be good if this Kosovar syndrome spread or became a new ideal because a domino effect would become a disaster. I think that it is very important for Kosovar Serbs to accept new government institutions and to participate and resolve their problems through them. In such a way, they will surely profit.
What about return of Serbian refugees to Kosovo?
There are not great results in that issue. It is true. The issue of return is often abused both on the Albanian and Serbian sides. There are now not conditions for the realization of that return. An issue important to such return is resolving the internal administrative setup, which means that it is also connected to the problem of decentralization and transfer of authority to local power structures. Kosovars cannot be responsible for anyone's safety if they have no authority over the police, the court system, and the other executive organs important for resolution of many other issues pertaining to return, ranging from infrastructure to economy. In any case, the issue of return is difficult, but it not exclusive to Kosovo. In Bosnia and Croatia this issue cannot be resolved quickly.
It seems that the most important issue in Kosovo is its future status. Do you see some realistic solution?
Well, I think that the issue of the final status of Kosovo is more or less a known, namely that it will be independent in future. However, what is very important is how that independence will be achieved. There must be new relations between Serbia and Kosovo, with both parties emerging as winners. These new relations can only be established within the framework of a European integration agenda with both Serbia and Kosovo becoming part of a large European family. The Issue of the final status of Kosovo cannot be tackled without linking it to Kosovo being part of the European integration process. I think it is important both for Serbia and Kosovo as well as other countries in the region to understand that the concept of sovereignty of 20th century is today an old one.