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BAKU, September 26. /TASS/. A referendum on introducing amendments to the country’s constitution is taking place in Azerbaijan on Monday. Polling stations will open at 8am local time (7am Moscow time) and close at 7pm local time (6pm Moscow time). The Azerbaijani citizens will express their opinion on amendments to 23 articles of the constitution and on six new possible articles.
The amendments to the constitution were proposed by the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Several amendments concern the rights and freedoms of citizens and envisage introducing changes to 15 articles. Others deal with commitments that Baku undertook in joining international treaties and conventions.
However, experts are especially interested in the amendments to the state system. They envisage establishing the positions of first vice-president and vice-president that will be appointed and dismissed by the head of state. If the president resigns before his successor is chosen, the first vice-president will serve as acting president instead of the prime minister. The presidential term is also planned to be increased from five to seven years, and the powers of the president may be broadened if people vote to allow him declare early presidential election and dissolve the parliament.
The amendments also envisage cancellation of all age restrictions. The minimal age for president, which is now stands at 35 years, is proposed to be cancelled while citizens may also receive the right to be elected to the parliament not from 25, but from 18 years.
The opposition is against the constitutional reform, saying that amendments and changes to the constitution infringe on the democratic freedoms, strengthen the current authorities and even "create the monarchy system of governing."
A question at the referendum will be considered as approved if over 50% of voters support it, while the plebiscite itself will be considered as legitimate is at least 25% of voters take part in it. According to the chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Mazakhir Panakhov, a total of 5,267,111 people are expected to vote at 5,627 polling stations. Consequently, participation of at least 1.3 million people will make the results of the referendum legitimate. Thirty-eight polling stations will open abroad, including three in Russia - in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.
Panakhov also said that everything is ready for the voting. The referendum will be monitored by 117 foreign observers from 33 countries and several international organizations — PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), and others. The number of local observers exceeds 53,000 people. Representatives of 16 foreign media will cover the referendum.