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Azerbaijan: Constitutional Referendum Declared Valid

Baku, 24 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijan's election officials have declared today's referendum on constitutional change valid. Officials reported a 67 percent turnout eight hours after polls opened. Polls close at 7:00 p.m. Prague time, and preliminary results are likely to be issued shortly afterwards.

Opposition groups issued a statement saying there had been widespread election violations, including falsification of turnout figures.

President Heidar Aliev, who is 79 and physically frail after heart bypass surgery, also cast his vote today. Aliyev brushed off opposition charges that the referendum was aimed at paving the way for his son Ilham to take over.

Aliev, a former KGB officer and Soviet communist politburo member, came to power in the oil-rich Caspian Sea state almost 10 years ago.