Municipality Elections in Azerbaijan – 2019

Municipalities function within the limits of the territory defined by Law, as an elective, local self-government form and on the basis of equality. 2700 municipalities were created in the result of the first municipal elections held in our country on December 12, 1999. Later, 1094 municipalities were combined with others, and subsequently 1606 municipalities remained. The number of members in these municipalities is 15156.  In fact, this number is also too much. So, declining the number of close small rural municipalities due to their combination would be profitable in terms of economic and social stability and sustainability.

Municipal elections in our republic are held every five years and the next municipal elections are scheduled for December 23, 2019.

If we consider foreign experience, there are 5 structural models of local self-government bodies in the world. These are:

  1. Weak Council – Strong Government Executive (Mayor) model
  2. Strong Council – Weak Government Executive (Mayor) model
  3. Council Manager model
  4. Commission model
  5. Mixed model.

Source: Wikipedia

Although the model of Weak Government Executive (Mayor) – Strong Council was considered when the first Municipal Institute was established in our country, there has been formed Weak Council – Strong Government Executive (Mayor) model.

The real situation arising owing to the formation of the model we mentioned is that although municipalities have their own property and budget, they do not have the authority to independently resolve the issues of local importance. Although municipalities are given certain authorities approved by Law, they depend on local executive bodies and their authorities are regulated and controlled within a certain framework. In fact, municipalities can not take any action without the permission of the executive power. Although the existence of a single control system is considered eligible, restrictive measures have a negative impact on their free decision-making and normal functioning. Some experts, expressing their attitude to such a situation, believe that our country has formally created municipalities because of its obligations before the European institutions, and in many cases local authorities assign who will form the chairman and members of municipality.

Studies on the next municipal elections show that a significant part of local population is not interested in these elections. The main reason for this is that local municipalities lost their influence as a result of their negligent and incompetent activities. Municipalities should realize, that if the authorities raise the issue on the abolition of this institution as an additional source of burden for both the state budget and the population, this proposal will be supported by the most part of population. Undoubtedly, since municipalities are not intended to be abolished as an institution due to the obligations of the government, it is necessary to continue its activities in some form.

Let’s take a look at the reasons that prevent the development of municipalities as an institution in our region:

1 Elections are held tame and non-transparent. Previously, banners all over the streets, meeting of candidates with people, discussions, debates on this topic in local media and TV shows and etc. – all these were also a turning point for people who were not interested in elections, and they considered it their civic duty to participate in elections to support worthy candidates. In the first municipal elections, this activity was at a normal level. The fact that these issues remain unnoticed in the current elections has created uncertainty in people and they do not seem satisfied with the process.
2 Non-transparent and non-constructive activity of municipalities has reduced the population’s confidence in them. Because, they cannot provide significant support to social problems of the community and their contact with people is at a low level. Therefore, the local population characterizes this structure only as an administration selling the land property.
3 The impact of this body on the well-being of population living in the municipal area is not felt.
4 Reporting is not provided to citizens and regular information on the amount spent is not provided to population.
5 There is a small number of income-generating areas belonging to municipalities in municipal area.
6 Support of people who do not have an understanding, thinking and innovative approach to the municipal Institute, do not understand the responsibility of their position, do not see the development of the area in the foreground is one of the main factors that give impetus to the distrust to this body.
7 Administrative work / planning process is not carried out at a professional level and there are a lot of inconsistencies in the actions plans.
8 Reports are not submitted to stakeholders and their cooperation with other organizations is based only on the instructions given above.
9 Funds collected  from various sources by municipalities, as well as the subsidies allocated by the state, are spent in ineffective way. Most of these funds (about 53-55%) are spent on maintenance of the apparatus of these institutions and to unnecessary purposes under a label of other expenses (17.5%).
10 Since there is no transparency in making decisions on socio-economic issues, the population has limited opportunities to influence this process.
11 Notwithstanding with normal legal acts, most municipalities are not able to build their business even within the framework of minimal resources. This is due to the fact that most of the heads and members of the municipality are lack of modern management experience, as well as innovativeness.
12 Although they have enough authority on paper, they are not open to innovations. As a result, municipalities have no proactive activity and innovative approach, no attempt is made to stabilize the situation and achieve success.
13 One of the other and perhaps the most fundamental reasons is the financial stability of municipalities. Having got an insight at statistical data on incomes and expenses of municipalities, one can conclude that if there is no profit from the sale of land by municipalities, then all municipalities are not capable to maintain even their own apparatus (in fact, the number of people working in this institution is also very large). Undoubtedly, the income from this sphere will come to an end after some time, i.e., the land plots are not unlimited, and this source of income is about to run out.

The research of incomes and expenses of municipalities once again supports our forecast for the above-mentioned problems. In our research, we tried to bring to attention the general picture only by covering the municipalities functioning in Shaki region.

According to statistics, there are 40 municipalities in Shaki region. The largest of them is Shaki City Municipality, the rest ones are rural and settlement municipalities. The volume of funds they received in 2018 amounted to 1,637,000 Manats. Compared to 2017, there was an increase of 31% (this should be considered a good indicator, however, this increase is over all municipalities due to funds received from land sales).

Sources of incomes: (of 40 municipalities)

  • 4% – from privatization of municipal property and land plots;
  • 5,35% – from property tax;
  • 2% – from hotel fees;
  • 4% – from parking fees;
  • 6,0% – from subsidies issued by the state;
  • 18,65% – from other sources.

Local budget costs: (of 40 municipalities)

  • Maintaining local self-government bodies – 55.3%
  • Maintaining Housing and communal services – 27.2%
  • Other costs – 17,5%

Source: bələdiyyə.info

Source: DSK

In accordance with these statistical figures, we can conclude that without the sale of land plots belonging to these 40 municipalities, these municipalities will face great financial difficulties. We consider, that the subsidies allocated to them by the state are overspendings, and in general it would be reasonable to stop it. Because the funds obtained from the sale of land plots and the main part (55.3%) of subsidy allocated by the state (74.4%) are spent on the maintenance of the apparatus of these institutions. In return, tax and SSPF debts of most of these municipalities continue to grow (according to unofficial data, the debt of 1607 municipalities to SSPF is close to 1.4 million Manats).

Suggestions and recommendations:

The following recommendations are submitted for consideration in order to increase people’s confidence in this institution and achieve their active participation in elections, as well as in the work of the municipality:

1 Ensuring transparency for people to vote for the candidate they want. In this case, we can achieve the increase of sense of responsibility of those elected to the municipality.
2 To carry out certain reforms in municipalities, to reduce the number of municipal members and employees in order to increase efficiency, to elect the municipal chairman not by members, but by elections, and to make respective amendments and addendums to the relevant Legislation. Source: S. Novruzov, MM Deputy)
3 Support the candidacy of those who understand this system, who have the understanding and good experience on the philosophy of Municipal Administration, who work not for themselves, but for people and who are capable to solve the problems of this institution, not incompetent ones. Hiring a small number, but only professional personnel to municipalities.
4 Granting exceptional authorities to municipalities, carrying on the control over their activities only by the Ministry of Justice and reducing the impact of local executive bodies.
5 Revolutionary development activities should be started to increase the interest in municipalities. In order to increase their budgetary incomes, new sources of income should be found or created so that it is possible to provide significant support to the solution of social problems of the community due to the collected municipal payments.
6 Development of entrepreneurial activity, attracting local and foreign investments, which lead to the creation of new work places.
7 Each municipal institution should:

–       Create its own TV channel in social network and involve the people living in its territory to donate to this channel, share each municipal meeting, future action plans, work done, costs incurred and so on with its voters on this channel;

–       Cooperate with municipalities in foreign countries;

–       Create its own Municipal Bank;

–       Help the people in different events by organizing lotteries.

In short, the more the municipalities are open to society, the more they gain trust by the population, as well as share the heavy social work undertook by the state.

8 To increase the flow of funds to municipalities, their authorities should be expanded, transparency increased, active participation of the public should be ensured. Participation and influence of population should be expanded in making decisions on socio-economic issues. The society, in its turn, should strengthen public control over the activities of municipalities.
9 The awareness and sources of information on the activities of municipalities should be available and accessible to the population, etc.