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Weekly Wrap-up: land borders, dissolved parliament, and yield of wheat

This week saw the extension of land borders closed due to the quarantine regime, President Aliyev dissolving the Milli Majlis, and a decrease in the yield of wheat in 2024.

Land borders in Azerbaijan will remain closed until October

Azerbaijan has extended its special quarantine regime until October 1, 2024, as part of ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This decision, signed by Prime Minister Ali Asadov on June 24, extends the previous deadline from July 1. Initially established in March 2020, the quarantine regime includes measures such as the closure of land borders.

President Ilham Aliyev has linked the closure of land borders to national security, citing enhanced security due to these measures. In an April 2024 speech at the “COP29 and Green Vision for Azerbaijan” forum, he mentioned that the country has faced serious external threats. Aliyev emphasized that most of Azerbaijan’s potential risks come from outside the country.

Despite the World Health Organization declaring the end of the pandemic in May 2023, Azerbaijan continues its quarantine measures, citing a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases. However, critics, including independent experts and opposition parties, believe the extensions are driven by reasons other than COVID-19, although the government has not provided a detailed explanation for the continued restrictions.

President Aliyev dissolved the Milli Majlis and called new elections

Extraordinary parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan have been scheduled for September 1 following a decree by President Ilham Aliyev to dissolve the Milli Majlis of the 6th convocation. This decision, published on the official presidential website, sets the stage for early elections to refresh the legislative body ahead of its regular schedule.

The move to dissolve the parliament and hold early elections was discussed and decided upon during a meeting of the YAP (the ruling party) Management Board on June 20. Deputy Chairman of the YAP, MP Tahir Budagov, highlighted that the next elections were constitutionally due in November 2024, coinciding with significant international events like COP29. Consequently, the parliament appealed to the president for early elections.

On June 27, the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan confirmed that the dissolution of the Milli Majlis and the scheduling of early elections were constitutional. The following day, the final plenary session of the 6th convocation of the Milli Majlis was held, concluding its work and paving the way for the upcoming elections on September 1.

Azerbaijan reports decrease in grain harvest

In 2024, Azerbaijan harvested over 400,000 hectares of grain fields, as reported by the Ministry of Agriculture. Harvesting has been completed on 403,503 hectares, yielding 878,173 tons of barley and 366,723 tons of wheat. Intensive harvesting continues in about 40 districts, including Agsu, Bilasuvar, and Neftchala, where over 70 percent of the harvesting is complete.

Agriculture expert Vahid Maharramli noted a 30 percent decrease in this year’s wheat harvest compared to the previous year. The yields of barley and wheat are also slightly lower. Maharramli criticized the agricultural management for being inexperienced and suggested that weather conditions might be used as an excuse for the lower yields.

In 2022, severe drought destroyed grain crops on approximately 100,000 hectares, reducing Azerbaijan’s wheat self-sufficiency from 62 percent to 57 percent. This increased wheat import costs by nearly $100 million, reaching $437 million. The ongoing risk of drought poses serious challenges to both agriculture and the nation’s overall food security.