Statement of the Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the journalists after voting in the polling station 17 of 28th constituency of Sabail district - November 12, 1995

First, I congratulate a big army of journalists of Azerbaijan and all journalists who have come to our republic. Thank you for your activity in this historical day of Azerbaijan. I know that the work of journalists is heavy and difficult. Therefore, I express you my gratitude. Secondly, I would like to notify that today is a significant day and really a holiday in the history of our country, in the independent Azerbaijani Republic. Because today the first Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan Republic is being accepted and the national referendum is being held

The people of Azerbaijan, ecaving many centuries behind, have achieved, at last, the state independence, national freedom. For the first time, irrespective of any center, circle, as the owner of its destiny, it creates its Constitution, a historical document for the creation of the institutes of the state, provides the rights, freedom of citizens, and also protect, strengthen, and develops the statehood of the independent state. This is a significant event. Therefore, today I feel huge pride for our people, state and society which have achieved it. I am glad that the commission developing the project of this Constitution has worked much, and as chairman of the commission, I also have done everything depending on me.

Today, at the same time the first parliamentary elections of the independent Azerbaijani Republic - elections to Parliament are taking place. In the past we had also Constitution and parliament. Today I express to them my respect and esteem. These are pages, stages of our history and we should not approach them scornfully, forget them. It is our history and our history belongs to us. But nowadays we are in a new stage, we are a independent state. I repeat, the people of Azerbaijan has the right to determine its destiny independently. Therefore, the election of the new parliament of Azerbaijan is a historical event. The independent Azerbaijan chooses its legislature, parliament. And these parliamentary elections are being conducted on the basis of absolute democratic principles.

I consider that we have undertaken the right step that before the development of the project of the Constitution, we have prepared the law for conducting parliamentary elections and introduced it for discussion. We have passed the law for the elections, based on democratic principles and then on the basis of this law we hold the elections. And today, at last, these elections are being conducted.

I have always said and today I have to the same opinion: these elections should be hold on democratic basis, express the will of the people. Each citizen should express freely his opinion, desire. It is the right of the citizen to whom to vote, he should define it himself. As the President, the head of the state, I have made my best efforts for creation such condition and I wish my efforts will be successful and today the elections will be held on the basis of democratic principles. How much we will achieve it, the results will show it. I don't want to idealize anything. In the world it is very difficult to achieve something ideal. However, if we undertake a big step on the way of democracy, freedom of people in these elections, it will become our historical achievement. I live with these hopes, these expectations. With these hopes, with these desires I have come here and voted.

Considering the wishes of journalists, I want to tell something in Russian, too. I consider today as historical day, because for the first time during all the history of the Azerbaijani people, Azerbaijan has an opportunity to solve the questions independently, as a sovereign country, and on this basis we could have prepared the project of the new Constitution, the Constitution of the independent, sovereign Azerbaijan. This project, in my opinion, is the document reflecting democratic principles. We have tried to make use of the experience of those countries which have already passed a long road of democracy had their statehood, constitution. We have tried to make use of all these experiences. We have very carefully studied the constitutions of many countries - both western and CIS countries. Naturally, assuming that the experience and historical and national traditions, customs as a basis, expressing deep respect to the historical past, the past of the nation, today we have developed the project of the Constitution. This is our Constitution, the Constitution of the independent Azerbaijan. In my opinion, although it reflects many things of the world practice, but this Constitution does not resemble any Constitution. It is our Constitution. I consider it as the most important historical achievement. I am glad and happy that I had an opportunity to contribute to the development of this Constitution which, I hope, will have a long life, and for many years, decades will define the way of the development of Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani people on the way of democracy, on the way of the construction of a legal democratic state.

Parliamentary elections is the practical realization of the clauses of the Constitution. The important aspect here is that we have managed to prepare a bill, adopted and hold parliamentary elections in parallel with the development of the project of the Constitution. The law on the parliamentary elections is a part of the Constitution, we have managed to prepare and start its realization in due time. Great work has been carried out to conduct these elections. And at last, today, on November 12, we came to the referendum to express our attitude to the project of the Constitution. I am sure that the majority of people will support this project and today this Constitution will be accepted. Naturally, the attitude will be expressed by the people to those candidates who have been put forward to have the right to be represented in the new parliament of Azerbaijan.

We have done our best to harmonize everything with the principles of democracy. And we heartily want the elections to be held democratically, and the democratic principles to be fulfilled. Participation of 400 candidates for 100 seats in the single-member constituencies and 8 political parties in elections and 25 candidates from each party, 200 candidates from all parties, generally 600 candidates for voting, is in itself, a great achievement for Azerbaijan. I want very much that each citizen, each voting person could express freely, independently his attitude both to the project of the Constitution, and, naturally, to those candidates who have been put forward for voting in corresponding constituencies. I want it with all my heart.

I am President, President of the independent Azerbaijan. I want firmly to lead our people along the road of democracy, road of freedom, road of market economy, road of civilization. Therefore, it is very important for me to have a worthy parliament. It is most important to have a parliament as the supreme legislative body, which will reflect all the layers of our society, consist of worthy people, be the worthy partner for me as President to realize great duties of our republic in common.

Therefore, I hope, I want the rule of democracy in Azerbaijan today. How much it will be possible - it depends on voters, on everyone who takes part in the elections. As to me, I have fulfilled my duty, I have voted. I have also fulfilled another duty as the chairman of the constitutional commission, I have fulfilled my duty together with all the members of the commission, we have developed the project of our Constitution and submitted to the discussion. As chairman of the constitutional commission, I have headed the process of preparation of the law on elections which completely meets democratic principles on the parliamentary elections all over the world.

Our Central Election Commission has prepared everything to conduct the election campaign. In this regard I have done my work. And I have a lot of works do in the future. I hope that today great prospects open for the further successful realization of those duties of republic, people, including me, as President.

Question: Mr. President, what is the political purpose to name Azerbaijani as the official language in the project of the Constitution?

Answer: It is not the political purpose. It is based on the historical way passed by the Azerbaijani language. Our language is Azerbaijani, we are Azerbaijanis and our republic is Azerbaijan. But from the viewpoint of history, linguistics, the Azerbaijani language was included into the group of the Turkic languages. Therefore, the Azerbaijani language has Turkic roots. But the Turkic group includes many languages in the world. In the territory of the former Soviet Union each 23 languages entering into this group has its own name. But all of them belong to the group of the Turkic languages. One of them is the Azerbaijani language. Our sources, roots, certainly, come from the Turkic roots. But our language is the Azerbaijani.

Question: Mr. President, how do you appreciate the attitude of the opposition to elections?

Answer: How can I appreciate? The opposition, probably, will express its attitude by voting. Everybody in fact is independent, free.

Question: Oppositional forces consider that elections will be antidemocratic…

Answer: You know, everyone is free to express his will freely. But it does not mean that what someone says is the law or absolutely true. No, they can say "antidemocratic", but, what the majority of people think? If the majority of the people do not agree with it, then the opinion is not right. For example, the day before yesterday, I also said it at the session of the Constitutional Commission. In the morning I have read the newspaper of the Musavat Party, it addresses to the people: "do not go to the national referendum of the Constitution, do not vote". It is an antidemocratic appeal. Because, if Musavat and its newspaper are loyal to democracy they should say: "Go and vote for whom you want". However they say: "do not go to elections, do not vote for the Constitution".

Secondly, I said it also two days ago, and today I want to say, too: if Musavat considers this Constitution unacceptable for Azerbaijan, not democratic, on which the Constitutional Commission has worked for six months, during this period why did not submit its own project then? If they presented a different, more democratic project suitable for people, and if it was rejected or any articles were not accepted, then, probably, there would be bases for such appeal to the people. However, I consider that these appeals show that they are anti-democratic and I am sure that it will not be accepted by the people.

Question: Mr. President, the constitutional commission is accused that it has given boundless powers to the President in many clauses of the project of the Constitution. We would like to know your attitude to it.

Answer: You know nobody can accuse us. The powers, given to the President in the Constitutional Commission, are reflected in the constitutions of all the developed democratic countries. May be, in some of them there are wider powers than in it. I can tell you that, for example, in the constitutions of CIS countries - Russia, other states - the president has been empowered to dissolve the parliament. However, in the Constitution of Azerbaijan such powers have not been given to the President. Is not it democracy? Does not it show that boundless powers are not given to the President?

Question: Mr. President, could you tell for whom did you vote?

Answer: Do you want it very much? I do not hide, I voted for Omer Eldarov. Because, he is a well-known sculptor of Azerbaijan, a significant person in Azerbaijan. I wish there were such valuable people in the Azerbaijani parliament. You can see the monuments created by him in many places of Azerbaijan. With great skill, love, he has created the monument of Fuzuli whose 500-year anniversary will be celebrated this year. He is the author of a monument of Huseyn Javid, the victim of the repression of 1938, and many other monuments. He is a great scientist, sculptor. I voted for him.

Question: Mr. President, will the new Constitution enable you to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

Answer: Yes, it will. The new Constitution is a basis for the establishment of a democratic state in Azerbaijan, as we follow a democratic road, as we have established a democratic, completely an independent state, not dependent on any other state, and as we have created a basis for it, I hope that the world community, the democratic countries of the world and the international organizations will believe that we shall never violate the rights of the Armenians the Nagorno Karabakh, they will live freely in our republic as citizens of Azerbaijan. But at the same time, this Constitution is a document providing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan completely. It is a document which approves the indivisibility of our territory in, in which prevents any attempt of misappropriation of the power by any group. Therefore, it will also help to solve the question of the Nagorno-Karabakh, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Question: Will there be any changes in the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey after the new elections?

Answer: We are brothers with Turkey and we will continue our friendly relations henceforth. Two days ago, I spoke to my dear friend, brother Suleyman Demirel by telephone. I invited him to Azerbaijan. After these elections, adoptation of the Constitution, the official visit of Suleyman Demirel is expected to Azerbaijan. We will strengthen friendly and brotherly relations between our countries by different steps.

Correspondent: Mr. President, we express our gratitude that you have pardoned reporters of the newspaper "Cheshma".

Heydar Aliyev: Why are you so silently speaking about it? Speak more loudly, let everyone hear it. Yes, there is a secret newspaper "Cheshma". Its heads, founders - six persons - had been arrested, sentenced by the court. Their parents, members of families, some journalists have appealed to me. However, I was very busy. But despite it, yesterday I investigated this question, the verdict of court. I called the prosecutor and had a talk with other people.

First, I was convinced that they had been punished fairly. You know, let's accept that criticism is necessary. Oppositional forces can and should criticize the power. There must be an opposition. We cannot live without criticism. I meet criticism of journalists in the opposition newspapers, the state newspapers with great respect. Because, if we reveal and correct any mistake as a result of the criticism, it is a support for us.

But nobody is to overstep the limits of criticism and to be engaged in slander and insults. Journalists should try not to lose their respect. They should be well-brought up, intelligent, they should not overstep the limits. It is impossible to increase the effect of the word by insult, slander or lies. Be sure, believe me I am an experienced person, these are unimportant things. They are young; probably they consider that they can achieve something with offensive, slanderous words. They have been fairly punished. Yesterday I investigated everything, called both the judge and the public prosecutor. But despite these, considering their being youth, I issued an decree and t pardoned them.

For example, the father of one of them is a refugee from Aghdam. He lives in the life of a refugee. He is a simple person. He told me that ten days prior to arrest, his son has presented him a book written by a Turkish journalist about me as a valuable present for his birthday. A Turkish journalist has written a small book in the Turkish language about me. This person said that his son presented him the book about Heydar Aliyev on his birthday. I don't know what happened then that he was engaged in such a work.

I saw that his father was an ordinary, honest person. Yesterday, I met and had a talk with the members of families of the others. All of them are good people, and I pitied both on them, and their children. I pardoned them. I guess that the court acted correctly and I acted correctly.

Question: Mr. President, what do you wait from the new parliament?

Answer: I wait from the new parliament a vigorous activity, adoptation of new laws, strengthening legislative work in Azerbaijan.

Question: What is the reason to grant the status of an independent state to Nakhchivan in the Constitution? There is an oppositional opinion that it pursues the purpose of granting a similar status to the Nagorno-Karabakh.

Answer: Elmira khanim, two days ago I spoke about it in my speech in the Constitutional Commission. Once again I repeat: these are provocative opinions. The independent status of Nakhchivan exists since the beginning of the 1920s years according to the international agreement and there are all bases for it. There are independent structures within many unitary states of the world. One of them is Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan within Azerbaijan.

Question: Does it not follow the purpose of gaining the Nagorno-Karabakh any status?

Answer: You know, I am openly speaking to you. How do you think, is it impossible to grant any status to the Nagorno-Karabakh? What will be granted is not the topic of conversation today. But let no one, the ignorant people, shout at squares, think "let's destroy the Nagorno-Karabakh, kill all the Armenians". It is a wrong idea. As a result of this ideas such situation has emerged in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is the native land of all the people living in its territory, irrespective of its nationality, religious, language, belief, race, including the Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh. If the Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh, refuse their aggressive, separative actions, and he Republic of Armenia stop military aggression, if our terms are accepted, the Nagorno-Karabakh will exist within Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh will be granted a corresponding status, normal relationships will be established between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Yesterday, I talked to observers from Europe, including, the vice-president of the National Assembly of France and others. France had been at war with Germany for some years. France had been at war with Great Britain for some years. Now they are friendly countries, union. It is history. Who considers that we will be eternally at war with Armenia, or eternally be enemies, is deeply mistaken. The world history shows it.

A big war had been waged between Russia or the Soviet Union and Germany. After 50 years, the heads of Germany, Russia, the USA and France kissed each other in Moscow. Hitler's fascist Germany had kept France under occupation for four years. The vice-president of the National Assembly of France told me in our conversation yesterday that during the occupation of France by the fascist Germany, he also became a refugee for four years. He said that unlike our refugees, he lived not in the tent, but in the house. And the majority of our refugees live in tents. But now France and Germany are friendly countries. They are members of the European Union. We should not forget this history and leave it behind. Therefore, it is necessary to approach these questions objectively.

Thank you, I wish all of you successes at your important work.