Sept. 2004


Text in Russisch

The major part of society is in political agony - Andreas Gross considers

by I.Bayandurlu, Zerkalo

Some people recognizes him as the "European inspector", others as the last straw for liberation of prisoners, another group of people found him as an opportunity to inform the European political elite about violation of fundamental norms of democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, he finds his mission very modest. Today's guest of ZERKALO is the PACE's reporter on Azerbaijan Mr. Andreas Gross who visited Azerbaijan for five days. Just before his flight we interviewed him.

Question: I apologize for putting quite trite question: are you satisfied with the results of your visit?

Answer: As usually it is very difficult to sum up within five or six sentences the results of five days visit. When we say five days I mean five workdays each of which starts at six o'clock on the morning and finishes at midnight. For me personally two points are very important. Firstly, I found Azeri society very fragmented. There are 10-20 per cent of people who enjoy in their day-to-day life the achievements of last years. These people are represented both in Baku and the regions of your country. The remaining eighty per cent feels the progress less. I mean the poor people. I mean the repressed people. I mean the people who have very few opportunities to realize their talents, abilities and hopes. Of course, such impression about society that is passing the transition period is not surprising. I just wanted to attract your attention to the fact that only 10-20 per cent can take more advantages from the development of country. Secondly, I think that the society is extremely polarized. I mean that 10-15 per cent of society identify themselves as a power, five or ten per cent adhere themselves to opposition and the remaining eighty per cent, the absolute majority, is in political agony. Some people consider that they won elections other people are sure that during these elections they were cheated. I think that the winner party should make a reconciliation step towards the defeated party. Unfortunately, nothing like that is happening. We met with a representative of authorities that named the opposition as mafia. At the same time during our meetings with opposition they called the power in Azerbaijan as despotic. I am sure that this mutual discredit, that makes me be disappointed, is very morbid and harmful. Having stressed these two points I have indirectly indicated the purposes of our visit. I mean we are very interested with the question whether there is any rapprochement between two opposite sides. Besides we were interested to know the quality of democracy in the country, the market economy and the level of development of the rule of law.

Q. After this answer I cast doubt on the statement you made during your meeting with the Members of Milli Mejlis saying that you will never understand Azeri society. I think that you understand it perfectly ...

A. No, really I do not hope that I understand it completely. Even one human life is not enough for self-understand and not the society. Alongside with Azeri society I do not completely understand the Swiss society where I live. Even if two of us unite our partisan and conscious resources - we will not understand the society.

Q. I had warned you that I am not going to hold the hot political interview but rather the conceptual one - the philosophical conversation that would admit to comprehend the internal world of a human being, who for several years is in charge of building of democracies in complicated and extremely controversial countries of ex-USSR.

A. As political scientist who is dealing with conceptual issues of democracy I can say that the democracy is a category that is set in the conditions of stable social consensus and collective mutual understanding. Democracy is a process of mutual perception. I think that the democratic process can be started but it does not have an end and the democratic process cannot be terminated. It is something endless and permanently developing. Even in Switzerland, Germany, France, United Kingdom it is non-stopping process. In Azerbaijan the democratic process has started. However, the intensity and speed of process are not satisfactory.

Q. It is well known that an important condition that is ensuring the beginning of democratic process in a country is the availability in this country of ruling elite that is sincerely willing democracy and is able to formulate the basic purposes of construction of democratic society. There emerges a question: is there in Azerbaijan an elite that concentrated in its hands the real mechanisms of state power, which is aimed at construction of functional and non-declarative democracy?

A. Yes, I think that the people who are related to this elite are available in Azerbaijan. And we met with them. These people are in prisons, President's Administration, they can be found in NGO-s. Even the young people we saw in café can be related to this elite. In every country such elite emerged and represents the thin strata of society. In Azerbaijan they represent especially thin strata. However, there are enough people like that. The problem is that they are not active enough.

Q. Is there possible any growth of legal perception of people and whether it is possible to adapt to any country the democratic values under conditions of non-functional declarative democracy that is rejecting fair elections?

A. If we try to describe in full the picture of democracy then it would be possible to see that the mosaic is containing of a number of fragments. The norms of law, rule of law, the legal perception, and the democratic and free elections are nothing but integral parts of democratic mosaic. I have to say that even in the countries where under the pressure of majority that is rejecting the supremacy of law, where are not held the fair elections, is not available independent judicial system and the corruption is dominating it is possible to find a minority of human beings who have the high level of legal perception and adhere to supremacy of law. The question is how this minority will live and survive in society where majority does not observe the culture of supremacy of law. This minority should organize strong institutionally organized group without being upset because of failures.

Q. As we presume, in Azerbaijan there is a chasm between authority and intellect as well as between power and morality. Can the high level state rulers significantly reduce this chasm?

A. For the last three months we met with Mr. President twice. During each of these meetings we talked for three hours. I am sure that he sincerely wants to reduce this chasm, which size can be hardly determined, and to approach the authority to morality. I hope that is able to do this. In any way, he demonstrated the will and intention to do this.
I have got a friend in Baku whose name I do not want uncover. Thinking highly of Azeri and especially Baku intelligence he said with heavy heart that unfortunately this strata is leaving country. In this connection your question seems very appropriate. I hope that President Ilham Aliyev and his friends will do their best to stop the outflow of intelligence.

Q. When you say "Ilham Aliyev's friends" you mean the members of President's team?

A. I am not familiar with Ilham Aliyev's friends. But I hope that he has true friends. Of course the ruling elite team is not uniform and has some levels. We were even told that there tensions and opposition within ruling team.
... As to the friends, I will tell you one interesting episode from my trip to regions. Being in Sheki and having visited Khan's Palace we got an opportunity to see one very interesting picture. There was a lion on it. Behind lion there was standing a dragon who opened his jaws over the lion's head. The meaning of this image is that the friends like that dragon can attack from backside.

Andreas Gross

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