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Court clears way for referendum on extended presidency

Latest update : 2008-12-24

Azerbaijan's constitutional court has cleared the way for a referendum that some believe is aimed at extending President Ilham Aliyev's rule by removing the two-term limit on the presidency.

AFP - Azerbaijan's constitutional court on Wednesday cleared the way for the oil-rich former Soviet republic to hold a referendum that critics believe is aimed at extending President Ilham Aliyev's rule.

The court ruled that the country could legally hold a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments which would remove a two-term limit on the president, theoretically allowing Azerbaijan to have a president for life.

"The constitutional court has ruled in favour" of the referendum, court spokesman Tural Aslanov said.

Azerbaijan's parliament must now vote to hold the referendum and set a date.

As the court was in session, police detained four of about 15 opposition supporters protesting outside the building. The opposition says lifting presidential term limits would be undemocratic.

The constitutional changes put forward in the proposed referendum would also postpone presidential and parliamentary elections in the event of war.

Aliyev two months ago swept to a second five-year term with more than 88 percent of the vote, cementing his family's long grip on power.

Leading opposition parties boycotted the October vote, accusing authorities of persecuting political opponents and muzzling the media, while international observers said the vote did not fully meet democratic standards.

Aliyev came to power in 2003, succeeding his father Heydar Aliyev, who died that year after dominating politics in Azerbaijan for 30 years.

Despite concerns over the country's democratic record, Western governments including the United States have courted Aliyev for access to the vast oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea.

Date created : 2008-12-24