on proposed amendments to the Constitution of Azerbaijan and preparations
to the 26 September 2016 Referendum
Following the proposal submitted by the President on 18 July 2016 and approval by the Constitutional Court on 26 July, Azerbaijan will hold a referendum which proposes to amend 29 articles of the Constitution on 26 September 2016.
Stressing the restrictive impact of proposed amendments to the Constitution on electoral system and division of power, as well as on human rights, Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) notes that proposed amendments do not adequately correspond to needs of Azerbaijani public with regards to rule of law, democracy and free and fair elections. On the contrary, if adopted, it will result in strengthened executive branch with wide powers at the expense of parliament which will see its role as an important legal and political institution diminished.
EMDS notes with regret that existence of political prisoners, including imprisoned journalists, human rights activists and political party members, as well as the situation of freedom of assembly, association and expression raises serious questions about democratic environment required for free and fair referendum.
Political repression, including revoking the license of the ANS TV and radio, and the arrest of executive secretary of the Republican Alternative (REAL) movement Natig Jafarli, that has taken place since the announcement of the referendum cast doubts that the process will be fair or democratic.
The Referendum Act proposes to increase the power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch extending president’s term from five to seven years, granting the president with the right to dissolve the parliament and to call for unscheduled parliamentary and presidential elections.
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