Last Monday, 24th July, Azerbaijan’s highest court approved an initiative by President Ilham Aliyev to extend the his term of office to seven years from five, a step his critics see as illegal and undemocratic.
Ratifying this extension to the presidential term will require constitutional amendments and a referendum, according to a statement from the constitutional court.
President Aliyev has been in power since 2003, and if approved, these changes would allow him to further tighten his grip on power after his third term ends in 2018. A 2009 referendum scrapped Azerbaijan’s two-term presidential limit, effectively enabling Aliyev to rule for life, provided he keeps being re-elected.
Syavush Novruzov, executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, told Reuters: “In Azerbaijan, three years in every five are dedicated to elections (presidential, parliamentary and local), and every poll needs a year of preparations. That’s why we think the president’s proposal must be approved.”
Critics see this move as a plan to tighten Aliyev’s rule, which has been marked by crackdowns on the political opposition and independent media.
Along with the proposed extension to presidential term, there are is also a proposal to restrict the freedom of people to assemble, prompting fears that this could lead to a crack down on those who the president sees as a threat, including Christians and other minority groups.
“This amendment is illegal and undemocratic, and is an attempt to strengthen rule in an unconstitutional way,” Ali Kerimli, an opposition Popular Front leader, told Reuters.
As a significant exporter of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Western nations, this mainly Muslim country of 9 million people, is crucial to Europe’s hopes of reducing its energy dependence on Russia, a fact the opposition says has diluted Western criticism of Aliyev’s style of rule.
The authoritarian rulers of some post-Soviet nations such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have all amended their constitutions over recent years, in order to prolong the presidential term, in some cases to life long rule.
- Pray for Azerbaijan at this critical time politically. Pray for stability, peace and for right decisions to be made for the good of the country and its people.
- Pray for Christians in Azerbaijan, that they will continue to have freedom to meet together and worship. Pray for the growth and unity of the Church in Azerbaijan, for leadership training and for access to good teaching and discipleship material.
- Pray for many in this land to encounter Christ Jesus in life changing ways that will bring transformation to communities across this nation.
Psalm 22 vs 27 – 28: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.”
Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article, http://www.persecution.org