By Amina Nazarli
The upcoming constitutional referendum will serve to maintain stability in Azerbaijan.
Mazahir Panahov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) made the remark at a meeting with the heads of district election commissions in Baku on August 18.
“Azerbaijan is developing rapidly, and population’s level of living increases,” Panahov said, adding that the previous elections were held in the country met the highest standards, and the upcoming referendum should be held at the same high level.
September 26, 2016 was set as the date for referendum on proposed changes to the constitution of Azerbaijan.
In a bill recently sent to the Constitutional Court, President Ilham Aliyev proposed amendments to 29 Articles of Azerbaijan’s current constitution. The changes envisage extension of the presidential term from five to seven years, establishment of the first vice-president and vice-president positions in the country as well as abolishment of minimum age limit for presidential candidates, dissolution of parliament by the president.
The Constitutional Court gave the go ahead for the proposed changes on July 27.
The CEC chairman went on to say that some forces in the world use the elections to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. “We should prevent it and timely eliminate even the smallest defects. Education of precinct election commissions will eliminate these shortcomings,” he noted.
The upcoming referendum in Azerbaijan meets the will of the people, First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ziyafat Asgarov said while addressing the event.
He added that the referendum should be held in accordance with the will of the people.
“National Leader Heydar Aliyev said that democracy has a beginning, but no end. In order to reach the highest level in building the rule of law, we have to carry out these changes. This referendum corresponds to the will of the people, and we need to conduct it,” Asgarov noted.
“Every act of the referendum is a political and economic barometer of society. We need to take this step in the state-building process,” he added.
The deputy head of the Presidential Administration, chief of department on work with regional management bodies and local self-management bodies of the Presidential Administration, Zeynal Nagdaliyev, said that Azerbaijan has an improved electoral law, which must be protected.
“Shortcomings in the work are inadmissible, so that interested parties cannot take advantage of them,” he emphasized.
He also pointed to Azerbaijan’s intensive development as compared to the previous decade.
“International organizations used to criticize us 10-15 years ago, put questions before us. Those problems have already been eliminated,” said the official. “There is political stability in Azerbaijan and our task is to contribute to it.”
Nagdaliyev also noted that electoral lists should be specified and state authorities should work together in this direction.
“If someone doesn’t perform his duties adequately, we will suspend his activities,” Nagdaliyev said, reminding that campaign stands will be checked.
“If shortcomings are detected, they will be immediately addressed,” he said, adding that 1,000 web cameras will be installed at the polling stations.
Deputy Interior Minister Oruj Zalov, in turn, said that the Interior Ministry will take all measures for public order on the referendum day.
On the eve of the referendum, illegal processions, rallies, pickets will be banned, and any attempt to hinder the voting process will be prevented, said the deputy minister.
He also noted that the registered groups can freely conduct campaigns.
First Deputy Prosecutor General Rustam Usubov, for his part, noted the important role of prosecutors in the conduct of the upcoming referendum.
“During the referendums in 2002 and 2009, no violations were recorded. Minor violations were witnessed during the municipal and parliamentary elections, but they were investigated by prosecuting authorities. We have achieved progress through working efficiently in this direction,” he said.
Azerbaijani citizens, who are serving their sentences at the penitentiary service facilities, will also be able to vote in the upcoming referendum, according to Deputy Justice Minister Azar Jafarov.
Azerbaijan’s penitentiary facilities are sufficiently progressive in terms of protecting the rights of persons serving their sentences, Jafarov said.
He noted that on the referendum day, the voting at penitentiary facilities will be held transparently and with participation of the media and various international missions.
Final results of the Referendum will be announced till October 21.
The last time changes to the Constitution were made seven years ago, following Constitutional referendum held in 2009.
Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli
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