Constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan was marked by opposition protests and unjustified detentions of activists, website of Institute for War and Peace Reporting writes.
“These amendments are intended to perpetuate the power of the Aliyevs. It is clear that they are already preparing the throne for Heydar Aliyev junior. They turn the republic into a monarchy, where power passes from father to son. A third generation of the Aliyevs, that is the worst that could happen to the country,” said Ulvi Hasanli, a board member of the youth movement NIDA.
As highlighted in the article, thousands of people took part in these protests. But although the rallies were sanctioned by the municipality, police detained dozens of activists both before and after the events.
Meanwhile, Global Risk Insights writes that it is clear that the constitutional changes have been proposed in order to entrench the position of the Aliyev regime within Azerbaijan. However, there are certain factors that have stimulated the regime to feel the need to find “legal” means to strengthen its position.
Reportedly, economic discontent is rampant throughout Azerbaijan, and the level of corruption and repression is higher than the norm. It is no surprise that the oil and gas sector represents the “greatest source of corruption in the country” as it makes up around three-quarters of government revenue. A recent drop in Azerbaijan’s national currency has had a large impact on the socio-economic situation of ordinary Azerbaijanis and many have voiced their frustrations on the streets.
In addition to this, it is no coincidence that the Turkish coup attempt took place on the 15th July and the declaration of the referendum in Azerbaijan was announced on the 26th July. It is highlighted that Aliyev was afraid that oppositional forces within the country would put an end to his regime. He thought that these constitutional changes may act as a further defense against such forces.
Meanwhile, website of the Azerbaijani newspaper Azadliq writes that there has been mass ballot-stuffing during the Constitutional Referendum in Azerbaijan.
One of the voters, Javid Hajibeyli, told Azadliq that the authorities use “carousel voting” at the polling station N 82 in Aghjabedi.
The editor of the newspaper, Rovshan Hajibeyli, who is an observer at the polling station N 121 in Yeni Yasamal district of Baku, noted that the ballots are thrown into the boxes in piles.
“They do not require any identification documents here. They give several ballots to one person. People are brought to vote by cars, and then they are sent to vote at other polling stations. Here, the ‘carousel’ works very well,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Baku bureau of Radio Liberty writes that according to the chair of the National Council of the Democratic Forces, Jamil Hasanli, “the Azerbaijani nation has refused to participate in the Referendum en masse.”
“The numbers cited by the Central Voting Committee about the population’s participation in the voting are false. Those, who vote, are state employees. They were told to go to work that day and create an illusion of voting. Just now, a group of ‘carousel’ participants went from one polling station to another,” he said.
According to him, the Azerbaijani government refused to accept opposition’s appeal for an observer mission. “In any case, in the evening, they will announce the number they have prepared beforehand,” Hasanli noted.
The Baku bureau of Radio Liberty also reports that opposition party Musavat has issued a statement about the violations during the Constitutional Referendum.
For example, in Binagadi rayon, teachers entrust parents to participate in the voting at the nearest polling station, even if those people are registered in other places. Every teacher has to provide the attendance of 6 parents.
At the polling stations 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 in Salyan, the observers noted that there were “carousels” at the fourth polling station. At the third polling station, it was announced about the participation of 343 people, and at the fifth – of 430 people. However, the observers recorded only 8 and 5 voters respectively.
In Jalilabad, groups of doctors, teachers, and high school students were created, and they go to different polling stations to vote. The “carousel” takes place under the noses of the administrative organs of the region.
In the 45th polling station in Absheron, the voters are called to participate in the referendum with the help of loudspeakers fixed on cars.
Several voters state there have been serious violations at the 45th polling station in Absheron. They say that ballots are thrown into the boxes in packs.
In its turn, news agency Turan writes that at the polling station created in the school N 108 in Mashtaga municipality, ballots are given to eight-grade students, who are not eligible to vote yet.
“By 9 in the morning, the boxes were already filled with ballots. I was also offered several ballots,” a voter said.
A doctor from the Ministry of Healthcare told Turan reporter that although she lives in Yasamal rayon, she was ordered to go and vote in Nasimi rayon of the capital. She was threatened to be dismissed in case of refusal. It is highlighted that many other state officials are in a similar situation.
On July 18, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree to send a Project of Referendum Act on Introducing Amendments to the Constitution of Azerbaijan to the Constitutional Court of the country for consideration. The suggested amendments propose to introduce the institutes of the first vice-president and vice-presidents, who will be appointed and dismissed by the president of the country. In addition, the minimum age limit for a presidential candidate, which is now set to 35 years, will be eliminated. It is also planned to increase the presidential term from five to seven years. It is proposed to introduce an amendment in the Constitution providing for the dissolution of the parliament, a provision, which is not provided in the current Constitution.
Azerbaijani oppositionists and experts called the Constitutional amendments retrogressive considering them directed towards the strengthening of the authoritarianism in the country, which will lead to serious human rights violations.