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Constitutional Reforms in Azerbaijan and the Traditional Policy of the Authorities

As the day of the referendum on Constitutional reforms in Azerbaijan is approaching, the authorities have already started their traditional policy. In the evening of August 12, the Executive Secretary of the movement ReAl (Real Alternative), Natig Jafarli was arrested as if for illegal business, appropriation and tax evasion, as well as for abuse of official powers – when such actions lead to heavy consequences or are committed with the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election (referendum), IRFS writes.

Later, on August 15, Elshan Gasymov and Togrul Ismail, two activists of movement ReAl were also arrested. According to Caucasian Knot, they were charged with illegal distribution of campaign posters reading "Say no to amendments to the Constitution!"
It should be mentioned that REAL Movement chairman Ilgar Mammadov was arrested on 4 February 2013, in the wake of the protests in the north-western city Ismayilli on 23 January 2013.

In regard with the recent arrests, movement RaAL has already made a statement in which it is said that these arrests are proves that the political repressions started in the recent years in Azerbaijan still continue.

"Jafarli’s arrest is a test for the US and the EU countries, which priorities are human rights and democracy, on how loyal they are to their values. In the created situation they can prove their loyalty to those priorities by applying sanctions against the suppressors of democracy."

The US State Department has already made a statement in this regard saying that they are troubled by the arrest of Jafarli, as well as by the arrests of other activists.  "We urge the Azerbaijani government to release these and other activists incarcerated in connection with exercising their fundamental freedoms, to respect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens, and to allow an open and public dialogue about the direction of the country, particularly in the run-up to the planned September 26 constitutional amendment referendum," the statement reads, also urging the Azerbaijani government to submit the constitutional amendments for a joint Venice Commission and ODIHR Opinion.

It should be reminded that the constitutional amendments in Azerbaijan are aimed at expanding the powers of the President in Azerbaijan. The most obvious example is that the presidential term will be extended from five to seven years, the president will be given the right to appoint the first vice president and vice presidents without anyone’s approval, to declare snap presidential elections, etc. Moreover, the minimum age limit for becoming the President of Azerbaijan will be lifted. This leads to assume that Aliyev is preparing grounds for his son to become a President of Azerbaijan and on his way to fulfilling what he has intended, he will get rid of anyone, who will become or threaten to become an obstacle.


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