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Opposition parties in Azerbaijan debate whether to register under New Law on Political Parties

With the adoption of Azerbaijan’s new Law “On Political Parties” in December 2022, concerns have been raised about the country’s multi-party system.

The law requires political parties to register with the Ministry of Justice and provide information about 4,500 members within 180 days of adoption. Failure to comply with the law will result in the termination of the party’s activities by the court.

Hafiz Hasanov, chairman of the Law and Development Union Organization, has stated that party chairmen will be prohibited from speaking on behalf of the political organization if they are not registered.

The opposition parties have expressed their concerns about the law and are hoping for changes in the legislation due to pressure from international organizations. The Azerbaijan People’s Front Party (APF) and the Musavat Party have stated that no decision has been made yet regarding the registry.

Ali Karimli, chairman of the PFLP, has mentioned that parties will not re-register in June but will only send the number of their members to the relevant ministry for the registry. Karimli emphasized that the law is reactionary and international organizations have criticized it, with the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights suggesting changes to the law.

The head of the Musavat Party, Arif Hajili, has expressed his concern about the law, stating that it strengthens the government’s control over political parties. He noted that the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe has also expressed concerns about the changes and suggested that the authorities make new changes to the law.

Hajili pointed out that the number of party members is many times more than what is required by the relevant ministry, and submitting the personal information of party members to the Ministry of Justice may cause additional problems for them. He mentioned that the documents are ready, but the decision to submit them to the authorities will be discussed in the party structures, and steps will be taken accordingly.

Despite internal and external protests, President Ilham Aliyev approved the law in January 2023. The law’s objectionable articles include the gathering of 5,000 members of the parties and the registration of each of them. With June 2023 approaching, the opposition parties are yet to decide on whether to register or not. They hope that international organizations’ calls and discontent inside the country will force the government to change the law, while the situation remains uncertain with the future of Azerbaijan’s multi-party system.