Azerbaijan passing through referendum

On 18th March in a nationwide referendum aimed at amending country’s constitution Azerbaijan went to ballot box to decide whether to remove two-term limit imposed for holders of the Presidential office. The referendum, especially changes proposed for lifting presidential term limits from constitution stirred much controversy from the very beginning. In January, in my Frontline blog I wrote in particular:

With three international radios silenced on national frequencies, the country heads for a nationwide referendum to decide whether to lift constitutional obstacles to re-election of someone for the office of the President more than two times. With the parliamentary proposal made on the 19th of December, Constitutional Court’s approval five days later, and the decision of the Parliament made on 26th of December, the whole procedure took only seven days, and the referendum is set for March 18, 2009.

Erkin Gadirli, a prominent jurist in Azerbaijan wrote in his personal blog in February:

Making laws is a very complex issue. In parliament it goes through three steps. Sometimes discussions about bills take years. But in referendum people is asked to decide on complex judicial matters and during a short time. How can people make a serious decision on issues which even jurists can’t have common opinion about? […]

These initiative of "YAP’s" [New Azerbaijan Party] for amending the constitution corresponds to a period when anxious with falling oil prices Russia and Venezuela hold a similar constitutional amendments about presidential term limits. This is what we actually witness. And it creates not a favorable background. Can a process with an unfavorable background lead to favorable results?

Read how Azeri and foreign bloggers reacted to the referendum in my Global Voices Online post.