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Azerbaijani Official Rejects Criticism Of Proposed Constitutional Changes

President Ilham Aliyev (right) succeeded his father Heidar.
President Ilham Aliyev (right) succeeded his father Heidar.

An Azerbaijani official has rejected criticism by Council of Europe experts over proposed changes to Azerbaijan's constitution that will be voted on in a national referendum on September 26.

Shahin Aliyev, the head of the legal department in Azerbaijan's presidential administration, said the negative opinions by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission were "hasty" and "unfounded."

The Venice Commission said on September 21 that many draft proposals by Baku's government would severely upset the balance of power and give "unprecedented" control to the president.

For example, the extension of the presidential mandate from five to seven years "cannot be justified" given the already very strong position of the president, the commission said.

Aliyev said in a briefing in Baku on September 21 that "we view that hasty conclusion [by the Venice Commission], which has many flaws, as politically driven. They speak to us in a language of ultimatums."

The presidential aide said he was also surprised the commission did not ask Azerbaijan for any clarification of the proposed constitutional changes before issuing its comments.

Aliyev said the proposed changes are designed to streamline the government and help introduce political and economic reforms.

The commission said another proposed reform giving the president the power to dissolve parliament would both make political dissent in parliament "largely ineffective" and affect the independence of the judiciary.

It also criticized the procedure of the referendum as having lacked proper debate in parliament and having been carried out too quickly and without real public discussion.

With reporting by AP

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