Monday, February 2, 2009

Winning through obfuscation

It's really common sense. If you have a potentially controversial item, you don't bring this question up by itself. This principle applies whether you are a teenager negotiating with your parents or if you are putting together a vote on changing a nation's constitution. If the issue is controversial, it's best to obfuscate the matter.

I was thinking of this after reading the text of proposed changes that will be before voters on March 18 this year. In all, 29 articles of the Constitution will be affected by 41 specific changes. The most controversial and highest profile question concerns the removal of term limits for the president. The only other item I knew about before tonight concerned erecting further barriers for journalists doing their jobs.

(OK - this is my interpretation of a change that would make it illegal to photograph or otherwise recording anyone before obtaining written permission. I just imagine the reporter coming up to cop swinging his stick at a protestor: "Excuse me, sir. Would you mind if I document this police brutality?")

But included in the referendum are many slight changes in wording of the Constitution, such as:

20. In the Article 96:
In the Part I the words “to 40 thousand citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan enjoying suffrage” shall be added after the words “to the Supreme Court” ; and “of 40 thousand citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan enjoying suffrage” shall be added after “of the Supreme Court”;

and

26. A sentence with the following content shall be added to the Part IX of the Article 130:
"The decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan shall be published."

I won't bore you with more of this legalistic verbiage. The point is that finding the most controversial element is very difficult. I suppose a certain amount of voter education may help - but the voter education will be carried out by the government - which is putting the measure before the people. The "agitation" as it is called here - will be done by members of the ruling party, who will be pushing for the questions to pass.

4 comments:

Onnik Krikorian said...

Hi Eric,

Is there an English translation of the proposed amendments available online?

Cheers,

Eric said...

Not that I know of on-line, although I have an English translation. I may post it - but not tonight.

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