Today the oil-rich country in the South Caucasus holds a constitutional referendum that will further cement the already disproportionate powers of President Ilham Aliyev, whose family has ruled for more than two decades.
The plebiscite proposes extending the presidential mandate from five to seven years—term limits were anyway scrapped by an iffy referendum in 2009. It has been sharply criticised by Azerbaijan’s marginalised opposition, beleaguered civil society and international human-rights groups.
Experts at the Council of Europe complain that the proposed new presidential powers, including the right to dissolve parliament, are “unprecedented”. Persecution and the jailing of critics, already common, could get even worse.
Perhaps most noteworthy for Aliyev-watchers is the intention to abolish the minimum age of 35 for presidential candidates. This has raised speculation that the strongman is grooming his 19-year-old son, Heydar, to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Whatever Mr Aliyev’s thinking, no one doubts that the outcome of this referendum, like the last one, is preordained.