BAKU (Eurasianet)–The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has criticized, yet largely accepted the results of a March 18 Azerbaijani referendum that provided the means for Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to scrap presidential term limits.
Delegates’ objections were centered on the lack of a free and independent media that, critics say, did not allow Azerbaijanis to make a well-informed decision on constitutional changes.
Yet most of the speakers emphasized that international monitors had assessed the vote’s conduct as satisfactory. Movlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest ally, stepped in to defend the referendum. “In our reading, this particular change, although allowing a person to be elected for a third term, does not guarantee anyone a seat unless he is elected through democratic elections,” Cavusoglu said, according to a transcript posted on the Assembly’s website.
Russian delegate Leonid Slutsky contended that the vote marked progress toward democratization in Azerbaijan.