Azerbaijan: Constitutional Referendum Gives Aliyev Unchecked Power
In response to Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC)’s accepting the results of a September 26 referendum approving Constitutional changes despite serious voting irregularities, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Azerbaijan’s election commission ignored its own requirements by accepting the results of the September 26 referendum despite well-documented ballot stuffing, the detention of people protesting the procedures, and other serious irregularities,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “The government showed its disregard for the fundamental rights of its citizens.”
On September 27, the CEC announced that the constitutional changes were supported by more than 90 percent of the voters, with an official voter turnout of 69.7 percent. The referendum to amend the Constitution was announced by presidential decree at the end of July 2016. The amendments include the extension of the presidential term in office to seven years from five, creation of the office of vice-president, and eliminating age limits for president, among other changes. On September 20, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued a preliminary opinion criticizing the amendments.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Partly Free inFreedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.86 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.