Statement of the National Council regarding the 26th September referendum vote on the proposed constitutional amendments

September 29th, 2016

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A referendum vote on proposed constitutional amendments took place on September 26. In spite of the National Election Commission’s declaration that the turnout was close to 70%, objective observations demonstrate clearly that the Azerbaijani citizens effectively boycotted this referendum.

The information obtained by the National Council from various polling centers show that the turnout was extremely low. Less than 10 % of voters took part at referendum. Even the always prevalent carousel method, whereby the special groups of people funded by budgetary organizations, move from one polling center to another voting several times at different locations, and could not increase the turnout.

Across all polling centers, ballot boxes were stuffed with bundles of vote bulletins. The real voters were replaced by either the polling center commission members, or by a specially organized group of people engaged in election fraud. In several episodes it was clear that the empty ballot boxes were replaced with already filled up boxes.

All of these episodes of vote rigging are proven by video footages obtained by various media representatives, and active and concerned citizens. The aforementioned fraudulent practices were even recorded by the CCTV cameras placed in the polling centers by the National Election Commission. These footages were then publicized widely.

More detailed information on these election fraud incidents can be obtained through the websites of the “Azadliq’’ newspaper, ‘’Radio Free Liberty’’, and ’’Meydan TV’’, as well via a number of Facebook pages. The fact that the absolute majority of voters refused to vote, and that the voting process was totally rigged, leads to an inevitable conclusion that the referendum did not in actuality take place.

The National Council hereby declares that it refuses to consider this referendum as legitimate and therefore does not recognize its results.

The National Council points out that the proposed amendments, were anti-constitutional, and that furthermore there was a total lack of public discussion and scrutiny of these amendments.

The amendments restrict individual rights and liberties, the property rights of the citizens, as well as the free expression rights. They also violate core republican principles and remove the crucial separation of powers within the government.

The amendments even allow anyone to become a head of state in the absence of a popular mandate. In simpler terms, the aim of these amendments was to legalize the already existing family rule of the state. For all these reasons, the referendum results could not have possible been legitimate under any circumstances.

The fact that the voters have also, overwhelmingly boycotted the referendum vote, further strengthens the blow to the legitimacy of the referendum. The citizens have in fact said a clear ‘No’ to the creation of the monarchy in Azerbaijan. This means that the nation rejected the constitutional amendments personally advanced by Ilham Aliyev.

The National Council points out that these proposals have also been rejected on international level. Both, members of U.S. Congress, as well as the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe have expressed negative views on these proposed amendments, even prior to the referendum.

This demonstrates that the international community has also refused to accept the constitutional changes. The referendum campaign was also rife with irregularities, harassments and coercions. None of the political campaigns opposing the proposals were officially registered. There were unlawful government interventions into peaceful protest rallies opposing the constitutional amendments. This is especially true in relation to the National Council’s protest rally on September 17. On the eve of the protest rally, 87 individuals were arrested and detained. Of those arrested 6 were sentenced to administrative detention periods ranging from 5 to 30 days. The same tactic was also applied following the conclusion of the rally. Hundreds of rally attendees were unlawfully and unjustifiably detained, and 12 were sentences to administrative detentions of 6-8 days. The TV space only allowed broadcast of pro-amendment campaigns. No debates or even public discussions allowing opposing views were allowed on air. In the total absence of the opposition views, the government utilized its entire administrative capacity to create an image of universal support for the constitutional amendments.

Taking into account all of the aforementioned points, the National Council declares that the adopted constitutional amendments do not reflect the national will, and must therefore be immediately annulled.

Given that the international community has also condemned this referendum, adopting its results threatens our national and state interests. In such circumstances, keeping these amendments in force, is not only an affront to our supreme legal document- the constitution, but is also an intentional damage to our national and state interests.

The National Council calls the nation not to yield to the declared results of the referendum, and to keep struggling using all available legal mechanisms, until the results are invalidated.

National Council also turns to all the international organizations to which Azerbaijan as a member owes obligations, to use all their power to influence Ilham Aliyev, so that these illegitimate results contradicting the popular will are nullified.