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  • » 03/21/2009, 00.00

    AZERBAIJAN

    Azerbaijan removes all obstacles to lifetime reelection for President Aliyev



    The opposition calls it "a step toward monarchy," and the Council of Europe is criticizing Baku and threatening sanctions. But the president's party insists that about 90% of the voters are in favor.

    Baku (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In a referendum on March 18, Azebaijan approved 49 changes to the constitution with a "Soviet style" majority. But at the Council of Europe, there are concerns that these modifications will allow current president Ilham Aliyev to be elected repeatedly, and consolidate his personal power at the risk of the young democracy.

    According to the official data, about 90% of the voters approved the changes. The supporters of the referendum stress that 71% of the 4.9 million eligible voters turned out.

    The opposition, which had indicated that it would abstain from voting, says that this is "a step backward for democracy, and a step toward monarchy." The Constitution prohibited the president from being reelected more than two consecutive times, meaning that Aliyev would not have been able to run again at the end of his current term. Now there are no limits to reelection, and there are fears of power for life, after the country was led for decades by the father of the current president.

    The opposition is also claiming fraud, and announcing appeals to invalidate the vote. But this is contradicted both by independent observers and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which maintains that the vote was "transparent, well-organized and held in a peaceful atmosphere."

    But there is harsh criticism from Ian Micallef, president of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the main regional organization for the protection of human rights. In an interview with Radio Free Europe, he says that these changes violate the pro-democracy commitment made by Baku in 2002, and that Azerbaijan's membership in the Council could be suspended.

    From Baku, Samed Sayidov, head of the Azeri delegation to the PACE and a member of Aliyev's Yeni Azerbaycan party, responds that Micallef is not well informed on the situation in the country, and that the referendum was held in a completely democratic manner.

    Previously, the Commission had stated that a limit on reelection is necessary, to prevent the president in office from using his power to impose an authoritarian and anti-democratic regime on the country.

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    See also

    14/04/2008 MYANMAR
    The junta organises election rigging to pass the constitution
    In view of the May 10 referendum on the new constitution, the poll authorities are receiving orders to block the "no" ballots; but the observers must "convince" the voters to select "yes".The generals aren't even considering the hypothesis of a defeat at the polls.

    23/04/2008 MYANMAR
    In the Burmese countryside, elderly and sick forced to vote "yes"
    There has been early voting for these categories of voters: last Sunday, dozens of election observers went to the homes of the elderly and sick, requiring them to vote and to sign their ballots. In the state of Kachin, the authorities offer rice and mobile phones in exchange for support of the new constitution.

    08/06/2005 TAIWAN
    Parliament changes the constitution
    National Assembly approves four constitutional amendments and votes itself out of business. A two-party system should emerge.

    02/04/2009 INDIA
    Bishop of Orissa: let Christians in refugee camps vote
    At least 70,000 Christians are not registered on the voter lists. Hindu extremists burned their identification documents in the pogroms in August and September. There are more than 3,000 people still living in the refugee camps. At least 18,000 have moved to other cities out of fear of violence. For the Global Council of Indian Christians, "depriving someone of their voting right is a way to disenfranchise and stifle the Christian minority."

    21/03/2009 NEPAL
    Student elections in Nepal, one dead, a hundred injured
    The university movement affiliated with the communist party CPN (UML) won the presidency in 92 universities. The movement connected to the Maoist party in power came in third, winning on 48 campuses. The voting was marked by clashes and violence, a mirror of the climate of political tension in the country.



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