‘European’ #Azerbaijan goes to the polls on extended presidential powers

| September 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

1422644172911Azerbaijan is only days away from a referendum on 29 amendments to the oil-rich country’s constitution, the result of which is likely to grant President Ilham Aliyev extended powers, writes Tony Mallett.

The countrywide vote (around five million citizens are eligible at the polls) will be held on Monday, 26 September, now designated as a work-free day, and the European Parliament has already stated that it will respect the result.

Key among that large amount of amendments is the fact that a positive vote for Aliyev’s proposals would extend the presidential term in office from five to seven years.  It would also create a new first vice president position which would place the holder of the post above the prime minister as second-in-command of the country.

Independent of the USSR since 1991, the Republic of Azerbaijan has been ruled by Aliyev since 2003. He was preceded in the role by his father, Heydar, who was president for a decade.  Azerbaijan is a Muslim but largely secular country close to Iran, Georgia and Turkey on the western edge of the Caspian Sea. In recent years it has worked hard to sell its ‘European’ credentials.

Despite some human-rights concerns, this effort has been largely supported by Europe and has seen the country host various events such as the 2016 European Grand Prix, Eurovision and a major European athletics tournament. Azerbaijan will also see its capital, Baku, act as a key football venue for the Euro 2020 tournament.

Recently, the European Parliament’s Vice President Ryszard Czarnecki told journalists in the country’s capital: “We will respect the result of this referendum, because for us the will of your nation is the most important.”  Czarnecki was part of a delegation visiting Baku, during which the members met Aliyev and other high-ranking officials.

The delegation “concluded that the referendum is being organised according to the laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Constitutional changes are broadly discussed in public, and the preparations of the vote are in line with international standards”.

EU Reporter will be on-the-ground in Baku before, during and after the referendum and a full report will appear on this website.

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Category: A Frontpage, Azerbaijan, EU, Featured Article, World

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