Nearly one month into Azerbaijan’s anti-corruption crackdown, both the government and general public appear puzzled about how far the campaign will actually go. But amidst the uncertainties, some signs of real change are beginning to emerge – a phenomenon that is encouraging popular expectations.
Ranked in 2010 as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (134th place out of 178 countries), Azerbaijan has long had a thriving relationship with corruption – be it in payments for state-provided medical services, entrance to universities, bribes to traffic police or to state customs officials.
But, officially, the government has long declared “a lack of serious problems” in the country. That line began to change on January 27, amidst the popular uprising in Egypt, when officials announced a no-tolerance policy for graft. Multiple local investigations have been launched, and dozens of state employees have been fired, ranging from the head of Azerbaijan’s penitentiary service to several officials from the powerful Ministry for State Emergencies.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku and a board member of the Open Society Assistance Foundation – Azerbaijan.