26. Nov. 2005
N 33 (1453)
The killed hope
Question: You have held a number of meetings with officials. How did they comment all what is going on in our country and your opinion about this?
Mr. Gross: The most interesting is that during our meeting with Chairman of Central Election Commission and Chairman of Constitutional Court they both told me that as citizens they disagree with a lot of things and would criticize these things but as the Heads of institutions they cannot do this. In democratic state it is inadmissible to perceive the state liability apart from the citizen one. The administrator cannot say that "as a citizen I think this way but in another case I think otherwise". This is the concept of democracy when the citizen's duty coincides with a public one. During our meeting with Mr. R.Mehdiyev our confrontation began when he said that these elections were steps forward towards democracy and I responded these elections are the big steps back and these elections were held much worse than the previous ones.
I also noted that we are here not to be liked or disliked by him or somebody else. If we compare these elections with previous parliamentary elections then we will see that at that time we had also problems. There were held the repeated elections in several constituencies but at that time there were no violence and a lot of people thought that during next elections the space for democracy will be wider. Now we see that elections are accompanied by violence and almost no one has any illusion about democracy in Azerbaijan. The worst thing that could happen has happened. By their irresponsible actions the rulers killed the democratic hope among people. Nobody believes anymore that any positive changes are possible in this country.
Question: The results of elections on several constituencies including those where the victory of opposition leaders was obvious were canceled. These measures were presented as elimination of falsifications. Your comments, please.
Mr.Gross: We understand that we have committed a big mistake. When the west Europeans hear that some results of elections are canceled they think that this done for some manipulations and the results of such decisions will be in favor of opposition. According to Electoral Code in case if the electoral manipulations can affect more than 25% of votes then the results on these constituencies should be canceled. Being guided by this principle the results of not 10 but of more constituencies should be canceled. The canceled results of voting on 10 constituencies is very balanced political act that is invoked to create an impression that some measures have been taken whereas no measure is taken and there is no wish to take them.
Question: Are you going to propose during winter PACE session to apply any sanctions against Azerbaijan?
Mr.Gross: We have not adopted any final decision about this. It will depend on conclusions to which we will come within next weeks of our work. We have to be back to Azerbaijan twice in January. Once during repeated elections and second time - with enlarged mission. We want to invite the President of Parliamentary Assembly Mr.Rene Van der Linden to come with us to study the situation in Azerbaijan personally. We want the issues to be discussed on higher level. I would like to quote Mr.Platvoet who said that it will be difficult for us to approve the mandate of parliamentary delegation of Azerbaijan to Council of Europe. After all what happened it will be difficult to consider this mandate as legitimate but it will be also difficult to insist on adoption of this decision by Parliamentary Assembly.
Question: Do you have an impression that the EU, CE and West in general who succeeded in collapsing of USSR have no efficient mechanisms through which they could really influence on the government of such a small country as Azerbaijan is apart from deprivation of mandate in PACE?
Mr.Gross: There is much misunderstanding on this issue and I want to dwell on them. I would like to note that the success has many fathers and if we refer to history we will recall that many peoples contributed to collapsing of Soviet system. This was a struggle that continued for tens of years. The poles, Czechs, Baltic countries, Russians, Azeris and others took part in it. It was contributed also by foreign countries. This was a victory of many forces. The deprivation of delegation of Azerbaijan of mandate in PACE does not imply the isolation of Azerbaijan and that Azerbaijan is becoming Uzbekistan. The deprivation of mandate does not mean that Azerbaijan loses its membership in CE. As parliamentarians we can adopt such decision but Azerbaijan will preserve its membership in CE. Besides, it is not necessary to eliminate the frontier between USA and Europe. Both of these centers are defined as "West" but at the same time it is necessary to see the difference between them. It is necessary to see the difference between such diplomats as Mr.Rino Harnisch and European parliamentary democrats.
We have made our statements both on today's press Conference and on live ANS channel. On Sunday you will see our statement that was recorded today, our reaction on 26 November events. Then you will see the difference between the reaction of American diplomat and the words of European parliamentary democrats. If you look at EU declaration of this week then you will notice a big difference between it and US Ambassador's statement. Therefore, we should correctly assess the decision on possible deprivation of mandate of delegation of Azerbaijan because it is rather symbolic decision. It will not be adopted without discussions and debates. The discussion on this issue that will be held is very important because it will demonstrate to disappointed Azeri democrats that not all in world think that the oil is more important than democracy and that if the rights of Muslims are violated then this can be ignored and where if the democratic rights of representatives of other religions are violated then this is serious issue. Not all think this way and both Azeri democrats and society should know about this.
I want to say that the politics is not the continuation of war through other methods and we do not say that CE and EU should replace Moscow that insisted on its decisions. In this case we speak about democratic politics. We develop together and study together, we support you and you support us. We want to be together with those people who were beaten on 26 November. We want to express our solidarity with people who were cheated and deprived of their votes on 6 November. We are with those people who have not lost their hope for democratic development of Azerbaijan. Many people in Azerbaijan and Europe think this way. We do not speak about the governments of European countries: this is another issue. We should not underestimate the forces of determination of democratic society. At the same time we do not underestimate our forces.
Question: On December of 3rd the opposition was planning to hold the protest actions. The government refused to authorize them within city and allowed to hold these actions on the motor-cycle racing track. How do you estimate this decision?
Mr.Gross: I have two scientific degrees and I studied the European motor sport and as a specialist on this issue it would be interesting for me to visit the motor-cycle racing track to see the completions on this type of sport. But I cannot understand why when a man wants to fish he is sent to factory. I think that decision can be assessed as impolite because the purpose of meeting is to attract people so they could see this. Therefore the decision to send the demonstrators somewhere beyond city on some territory for us is at least strange. The place for holding the actions should be chosen based on the possibility to be seen and participated therein. Therefore the decision to send the people to world's end is not understandable for us.
Question: The opposition refuses to take part in repeated elections. What is your opinion about this?
Mr.Gross: For me this question is difficult because as a democrat I never get desponded and always call for participation in elections. I recall very well that after previous parliamentary elections I was trying to convince Isa Gambar to join the repeated elections. But in such circumstances of total falsifications in the circumstances where first time in the history of independent Azerbaijan the women and children were beaten I completely understand the reaction of opposition. We wanted to come before the Constitutional Court adopts its decision because we wanted to propose the alternative of holding of repeated calculation of votes in from 10 to 20 constituencies and plus the repeated voting in 10 or more constituencies. I think if this proposal was adopted this would have contributed to restoration of confidence among the participants of political process. But unfortunately, the decision was adopted before we came here and it was deliberately made in haste. Thus, the Central Election Commission and Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan once again demonstrated that they are not responsible and independent institutions, which survey the technical correctness of process. They are political institutions, the political logics of government and do not adopt the decisions independently.
Question: There is an opinion that international community still has the instruments of pressure on the authorities of those or other countries for adoption of admissible decisions. But in our case the lack of support to our opposition leaders is explained by distrust to them displayed by international community. This support would have been rendered if the centrist or left political forces were represented among them. To what extent is this opinion right?
Mr.Gross: I would advise you not to make such haste conclusions. For instance, in Burma the opposition is exposed to more pressure and prosecutions than in Azerbaijan. In that country the opposition is headed by woman. She got the Noble prize and for almost 20 years is under house arrest. In Africa there 20-30 countries where not 8 but more millions of people live and they are forgotten. Nobody knows what is happening there who and how rule there. The West does not know this and is not charge for this. I mean the problem is not that somebody dislike Azeri opposition or in oil. There are more serious problems and one should understand them. The resources of democratic forces support each other but for a time being they yield to the resources of totalitarian forces. Many people put the parallels between the events in Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Georgia but one should take into account that in Ukraine they had functioning parliament for 12 years. But in Azerbaijan there has not been and is not any parliament. In Georgia the situation is more complicated. I have no simple answer why this does not happen in Azerbaijan. I understand that your questions are dictated by despair. But let's not hurry with conclusions. I am also disappointed with these elections in Azerbaijan. I was hoping that in Azerbaijan there will start the events which started in Ukraine 12 years ago. But we did not get them.
Let's take for instance Poland. There they had elections and the votes divided between conservators and liberals. The line of division of votes passed through the regions where the German influence is quite strong. In these regions the liberals won. And in those regions which were the part of Russia and Austria the conservators won. One should not neglect the historical influence. The same can be said about Ukraine, which western part was under the influence of Austria and politically more developed. The lessons of history cannot be forgotten within 2-3 years. When we compare Azerbaijan with Georgia we see that Georgia is 500-600 kms closer to West. Georgia is washed by Black Sea that has an outlet to ocean, and Azerbaijan is washed by Caspian Sea. And the more important is that Georgia had a leader as Shevardnadze who was highly estimated by West for his role in unification of Germany. This increased the sympathy of West to Georgia despite the fact that its leader was dictator. In Azerbaijan when we leave for outside of Baku and travel to regions we do not see there the modern political life. This must not be ignored. But all above-said cannot justify the inactions of those who should act. And as intellectuals we should clearly analyze and see even those things, which we do not like.