Azerbaijan: Unlimited Presidency?

The civil society in Azerbaijan and some expatriates in the United States are organizing against a March 18, 2009 constitutional referendum that “would clear the way for [Azerbaijan’s] President Ilham Aliyev to remain in office indefinitely.”

Photo: Three-year-old Azerbaijani-American Lale at a New York rally/ via Global Voices Online

An oil-rich country, ex-Soviet Azerbaijan’s undemocratic actions are rarely criticized by the West. How will U.S. President Barack Obama, who has visited Azerbaijanas a senator, react to the constitutional change

– Simon Maghakyan, Eurasia Country Specialist

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6 thoughts on “Azerbaijan: Unlimited Presidency?

  1. There are some other interesting new posts from within Azerbaijan — one by an Azeri analyst and the other by an American:

    The future of Azerbaijan- an eternal presidency, no foreign broadcasts, no freedom of speech or press… what else?

    Winning through obfuscation

    Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what the Council of Europe (CE) does.

    In 2005, changes to the Armenian Constitution were made which met with the approval of the CE. However, polling stations across the country were empty, the government declared a record-high turnout and basically falsified the vote to an extent never seen before in the region, but OSCE/PACE gave it a clean bill of health because they wanted the amendments passed.

    In the case of Azerbaijan, however, the amendments have not been drafted with their involvement or agreement, and the two-term restriction being lifted as well as few other changes are of great concern to the CE. So, it's a different situation for them, but like Armenia in 2005 Azerbaijani society is said to be passive and apathetic to the changes.

    Let's see if the opposition can mobilize them instead.

    If so, I suppose we can unfortunately expect some heavy crackdowns unless the CE can step in before the vote (which presently looks unlikely to change anything even if they could). Nevertheless, they are beginning to speak out — and bear in mind the referendum was only announced a month ago.

    Strasbourg, 29.01.2009 – The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting today in Strasbourg, examined recent developments in Azerbaijan and decided to request the opinion of the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe’s group of experts on constitutional law – on the package of constitutional amendments to be submitted to a nation-wide referendum on 18 March 2009.

    These amendments, adopted by the Azerbaijani Parliament on 25 December 2008, would abolish the limit on the number of consecutive terms of office for the President of the Republic, extend the term of office of the President and the Parliament in a time of war, as well as grant the right to introduce a legislative initiative if it has the support of 40,000 voters.

    The committee will consider the opinion of the Venice Commission during a meeting in March.

    http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsM

    Ironically, however, Aliyev has responded to U.S. and European criticism by saying that they are interfering in the internal matters of Azerbaijan and adds that they ignore human rights abuses in Armenia. In reality, the international community isn't really speaking out much about democratic regression in all three of the South Caucasus countries.

    Still, while Armenia is being forced to comply with CE demands, let's see if Azerbaijan will be able to resist. Their wealth and an apparent internal dispute about succession (it was initially rumored his wife would take over) makes that more likely than for Armenia and Georgia.

    Anyway, Global Voices Online will also hopefully continue to post roundups of Azeri-language entries as the referendum gets nearer.

  2. There are some other interesting new posts from within Azerbaijan — one by an Azeri analyst and the other by an American:

    The future of Azerbaijan- an eternal presidency, no foreign broadcasts, no freedom of speech or press… what else?

    Winning through obfuscation

    Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what the Council of Europe (CE) does.

    In 2005, changes to the Armenian Constitution were made which met with the approval of the CE. However, polling stations across the country were empty, the government declared a record-high turnout and basically falsified the vote to an extent never seen before in the region, but OSCE/PACE gave it a clean bill of health because they wanted the amendments passed.

    In the case of Azerbaijan, however, the amendments have not been drafted with their involvement or agreement, and the two-term restriction being lifted as well as few other changes are of great concern to the CE. So, it's a different situation for them, but like Armenia in 2005 Azerbaijani society is said to be passive and apathetic to the changes.

    Let's see if the opposition can mobilize them instead.

    If so, I suppose we can unfortunately expect some heavy crackdowns unless the CE can step in before the vote (which presently looks unlikely to change anything even if they could). Nevertheless, they are beginning to speak out — and bear in mind the referendum was only announced a month ago.

    Strasbourg, 29.01.2009 – The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting today in Strasbourg, examined recent developments in Azerbaijan and decided to request the opinion of the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe’s group of experts on constitutional law – on the package of constitutional amendments to be submitted to a nation-wide referendum on 18 March 2009.

    These amendments, adopted by the Azerbaijani Parliament on 25 December 2008, would abolish the limit on the number of consecutive terms of office for the President of the Republic, extend the term of office of the President and the Parliament in a time of war, as well as grant the right to introduce a legislative initiative if it has the support of 40,000 voters.

    The committee will consider the opinion of the Venice Commission during a meeting in March.

    http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsM

    Ironically, however, Aliyev has responded to U.S. and European criticism by saying that they are interfering in the internal matters of Azerbaijan and adds that they ignore human rights abuses in Armenia. In reality, the international community isn't really speaking out much about democratic regression in all three of the South Caucasus countries.

    Still, while Armenia is being forced to comply with CE demands, let's see if Azerbaijan will be able to resist. Their wealth and an apparent internal dispute about succession (it was initially rumored his wife would take over) makes that more likely than for Armenia and Georgia.

    Anyway, Global Voices Online will also hopefully continue to post roundups of Azeri-language entries as the referendum gets nearer.

  3. There are some other interesting new posts from within Azerbaijan — one by an Azeri analyst and the other by an American:

    The future of Azerbaijan- an eternal presidency, no foreign broadcasts, no freedom of speech or press… what else?

    Winning through obfuscation

    Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what the Council of Europe (CE) does.

    In 2005, changes to the Armenian Constitution were made which met with the approval of the CE. However, polling stations across the country were empty, the government declared a record-high turnout and basically falsified the vote to an extent never seen before in the region, but OSCE/PACE gave it a clean bill of health because they wanted the amendments passed.

    In the case of Azerbaijan, however, the amendments have not been drafted with their involvement or agreement, and the two-term restriction being lifted as well as few other changes are of great concern to the CE. So, it's a different situation for them, but like Armenia in 2005 Azerbaijani society is said to be passive and apathetic to the changes.

    Let's see if the opposition can mobilize them instead.

    If so, I suppose we can unfortunately expect some heavy crackdowns unless the CE can step in before the vote (which presently looks unlikely to change anything even if they could). Nevertheless, they are beginning to speak out — and bear in mind the referendum was only announced a month ago.

    Strasbourg, 29.01.2009 – The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting today in Strasbourg, examined recent developments in Azerbaijan and decided to request the opinion of the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe’s group of experts on constitutional law – on the package of constitutional amendments to be submitted to a nation-wide referendum on 18 March 2009.

    These amendments, adopted by the Azerbaijani Parliament on 25 December 2008, would abolish the limit on the number of consecutive terms of office for the President of the Republic, extend the term of office of the President and the Parliament in a time of war, as well as grant the right to introduce a legislative initiative if it has the support of 40,000 voters.

    The committee will consider the opinion of the Venice Commission during a meeting in March.

    http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsM

    Ironically, however, Aliyev has responded to U.S. and European criticism by saying that they are interfering in the internal matters of Azerbaijan and adds that they ignore human rights abuses in Armenia. In reality, the international community isn't really speaking out much about democratic regression in all three of the South Caucasus countries.

    Still, while Armenia is being forced to comply with CE demands, let's see if Azerbaijan will be able to resist. Their wealth and an apparent internal dispute about succession (it was initially rumored his wife would take over) makes that more likely than for Armenia and Georgia.

    Anyway, Global Voices Online will also hopefully continue to post roundups of Azeri-language entries as the referendum gets nearer.

  4. There are some other interesting new posts from within Azerbaijan — one by an Azeri analyst and the other by an American:

    The future of Azerbaijan- an eternal presidency, no foreign broadcasts, no freedom of speech or press… what else?

    Winning through obfuscation

    Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what the Council of Europe (CE) does.

    In 2005, changes to the Armenian Constitution were made which met with the approval of the CE. However, polling stations across the country were empty, the government declared a record-high turnout and basically falsified the vote to an extent never seen before in the region, but OSCE/PACE gave it a clean bill of health because they wanted the amendments passed.

    In the case of Azerbaijan, however, the amendments have not been drafted with their involvement or agreement, and the two-term restriction being lifted as well as few other changes are of great concern to the CE. So, it’s a different situation for them, but like Armenia in 2005 Azerbaijani society is said to be passive and apathetic to the changes.

    Let’s see if the opposition can mobilize them instead.

    If so, I suppose we can unfortunately expect some heavy crackdowns unless the CE can step in before the vote (which presently looks unlikely to change anything even if they could). Nevertheless, they are beginning to speak out — and bear in mind the referendum was only announced a month ago.

    Strasbourg, 29.01.2009 – The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting today in Strasbourg, examined recent developments in Azerbaijan and decided to request the opinion of the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe’s group of experts on constitutional law – on the package of constitutional amendments to be submitted to a nation-wide referendum on 18 March 2009.

    These amendments, adopted by the Azerbaijani Parliament on 25 December 2008, would abolish the limit on the number of consecutive terms of office for the President of the Republic, extend the term of office of the President and the Parliament in a time of war, as well as grant the right to introduce a legislative initiative if it has the support of 40,000 voters.

    The committee will consider the opinion of the Venice Commission during a meeting in March.

    http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsManagerView.asp?ID=4377&L=2

    Ironically, however, Aliyev has responded to U.S. and European criticism by saying that they are interfering in the internal matters of Azerbaijan and adds that they ignore human rights abuses in Armenia. In reality, the international community isn’t really speaking out much about democratic regression in all three of the South Caucasus countries.

    Still, while Armenia is being forced to comply with CE demands, let’s see if Azerbaijan will be able to resist. Their wealth and an apparent internal dispute about succession (it was initially rumored his wife would take over) makes that more likely than for Armenia and Georgia.

    Anyway, Global Voices Online will also hopefully continue to post roundups of Azeri-language entries as the referendum gets nearer.

  5. Pingback: Azerbaijan: Popular Website “Temporarily” Closed | Human Rights Now - Amnesty International USA Blog

  6. Pingback: Azerbaijan: “Unlimited Presidency” Approved | Human Rights Now - Amnesty International USA Blog