ICC NOTE: Azerbaijan has been on the verge of passing controversial pieces of legislation which could affect the nations political direction for decades to come. Proposed amendments to the country’s constitution includes extending presidential term limits as well as reducing the age of eligibility for political candidates. Actions such as these would extend the current presidents term limits as well as offer an opportunity for his son to be eligible for political office in the nations parliament. The worst of them all would likely be the power to dissolve its parliament as any given time. Religious minorities already experience a high level of discrimination from the Muslim majority population, but they also receive a share from the government. If at any time the president were to dissolve parliament, it would destroy any future chances for democracy to truly take hold in the region as well as put religious minorities in further danger.
9/12/2016 Azerbaijan (Radio Free Europe) – Five prominent Azerbaijani human rights activists have appealed to Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland to ask the council’s Venice Commission of legal experts to assess the controversial amendments to the Azerbaijani Constitution that are to be put to a nationwide referendum on September 26.
Opposition parties have criticized the proposed changes as undemocratic and aimed at securing the rule in perpetuity of the family of incumbent President Ilham Aliyev.
Specifically, the changes would extend the presidential term from five to seven years and empower the incumbent president to appoint a first vice president and a vice president, and to dissolve parliament. They would also abolish the minimum age requirement (35) for potential presidential candidates and lower that for election to parliament from 25 to 18. Aliyev’s son Heydar is currently 19.
The five human rights activists are Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mamedli, and Leyla Yunus, all of whom have been jailed on apparently fabricated criminal charges in retaliation for their civic engagement and subsequently pardoned or released, and Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety head Emin Guseynov, who was forced to leave the country in 2015 and stripped of his Azerbaijani citizenship.