According to exit polls, more than 50 percent of Azerbaijanis have voted yes in a referendum, which would allow their president to rule after his term ends in 2013. Previously, under the constitution, there was a two-term presidential limit.
Despite an opposition call for a boycott of the vote, officials reported a strong turnout of close to 70 percent of the electorate. The Aliyev family has dominated the former Soviet republic for decades. Ilham Aliyev’s father was President too. Azerbaijan has huge oil reserves and is sandwiched between Russia and Iran at the threshold of Central Asia. Aliev’s rule has coincided with an economic boom fuelled by oil pumped to Europe from the Caspian Sea in an area where Western governments and Russia are vying for influence. Azerbaijan says it is committed to democracy, but rights groups disagree.