On 26 September 2016 Azerbaijan will hold a referendum which aims to amend its Constitution. The referendum was approved by the Constitutional Court on 26 July after the President officially proposed it on 18 July.
The EaP CSF member the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) has produced an Opinion on the proposed amendments to the Constitution and the preparations for the Referendum.
The document expresses EMDS’ concerns regarding the proposed amendments, stating that while it will strengthen the executive branch it will also have a restrictive impact on human rights, the electoral system and division of power. The lack of public debate and repressions on those opposing the amendments are pressing issues highlighted in the text.
For the purpose of holding a free and democratic referendum on 26 September EMDS recommends:
- In order to inform voters on the upcoming Referendum and proposed amendments to the Constitution, the Azerbaijani government should create necessary conditions for non-governmental organizations and political parties to freely engage in the referendum campaigning, including the full guarantees of freedom of expression, association and assembly, as well as the rule of law;
- The authorities should end all instances of harassment of activists, political party members and other campaigners against the proposed amendments to the Constitution;
- Azerbaijani government should consult the Venice Commission on proposed amendments and their compatibility with the country’s commitments under international agreements, including the European Convention on Human Rights;
- The Secretary General of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly should appeal to the Venice Commission for their expert opinion on the compatibility of the proposed amendments with the European Convention on Human Rights and other European standards.