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Groups Await Clearance To Debate Azeri Referendum

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's second term would expire in 2013.
BAKU -- A spokesperson for Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission has told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service that 13 groups have submitted documents for registration so they can either campaign for or against an upcoming national referendum.

The referendum, scheduled for March 18, will ask voters' opinions on proposed constitutional amendments that would abolish the two-term limit on the presidency, potentially extending four decades of dynastic rule in the oil-rich state.

President Ilham Aliyev, son of long-serving leader Heydar Aliyev, won a second and final term in October in a landslide election boycotted by the opposition and criticized by European monitors as less than democratic.

The proposed constitutional amendments would allow Aliyev to stay in power when his mandate expires in 2013.

The Central Election Commission is processing pro-referendum and antireferendum group applications.

Groups may begin campaigning on February 18.