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How to sell a parliament seat in Azerbaijan

Photo courtesy of the CIA World FactbookThe Azeri prosecutor-general recently began a corruption investigation against Gular Ahmadova, a member of parliament from Azerbaijan’s ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, after a video surfaced on YouTube showing her negotiating the sale of a parliamentary seat.

The video shows shows Ahmedova asking for $1.3 million from academic Elsad Abdullayev. For almost 15 minutes Ahmadova argues over the price of the seat with Abdullayev and her middleman, Sevinj Bababyeva.

Ironically, the video cost Ahmedova her own parliamentary seat and earned her condemnation  from Ali Ahmadov, the ruling party chairman.

Another video of Ahmedova and Abdullayev, also posted on YouTube, reveals an even darker side of politics in Azerbaijan. Ahmadova mentions lists of potential candidates belonging to different politicians. In particular, she mentions the country’s President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva among the people who are in charge of these “lists.”

The second video lifts the lid on a case first thought to be an isolated instance of bribery to reveal rampant corruption embedded in the parliamentary system. Ahmadova rattles off the names of numerous politicians who have bought and sold seats.

The videos have confirmed that money has overwhelmed democratic institutions in the largely impoverished but oil-rich nation. Whether the scandal will force a clean-up in government remains to be seen.

Here’s the first video of Ahmadova and Abdullayev:

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Melanie Lansakara is a researcher for the FCPA Blog members area.

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