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Azerbaijan vote sets stage for endless presidency

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BAKU, Azerbaijan –Voters here overwhelmingly approved a constitutional referendum to abolish presidential term limits in this oil-rich former Soviet republic, according to preliminary results from Wednesday's election.

Opposition leaders, who had called for a boycott of the election, immediately decried what they believe to be widespread voting fraud, including ballot stuffing, intimidation, and outright falsification of turnout figures. Isa Gambar, the leader of the opposition Musavat Party, claimed official turnout was no higher than 15 percent.

Turnout is critical to the success of the referendum as local law requires 25 percent participation. By the time the polls closed last night, election officials placed voter turnout at 64 percent.

The Central Election Commission, which oversaw votings, says that more than half the votes have since been counted, with 92 percent in favor of the changes.

Radio Liberty posted this video which appears to show an Azerbaijani woman voting three times. The service also reported witnessing voters being bused to multiple polling stations.

In addition to abolishing term limits, the referendum contained several other controversial amendments. Media rights activists and lawyers are particularly concerned about language making it illegal to record or photograph anyone without prior permission.

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