Azerbaijan is a presidential republic, governed under a constitution adopted by referendum in 1995. The new constitution replaced the 1978 constitution, which had been amended to reflect Azerbaijanís new status after the republic gained independence in 1991.
The head of state is the president, who is directly elected for a term of five years. The president appoints a prime minister and a cabinet of ministers, who carry out the day-to-day operations of government. Legislative power is vested in the Milli Majlis, or National Assembly, a unicameral (single-chamber) body composed of 125 members who serve five-year terms. Under the countryís electoral law, 25 seats in the Milli Majlis are awarded to candidates according to the proportion of the vote their parties draw in elections. The remaining 100 seats are filled by the winners of district elections.
Political parties with representation in the Milli Majlis include the New Azerbaijan Party, the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, and the National Independence Party. Legislative elections were last held in 1995. All citizens of Azerbaijan age 18 and older are eligible to vote. The judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, which is the countryís highest court, and the Constitutional Court, which acts as the guarantor of the 1995 constitution. Members of both courts are nominated by the president and approved by the Milli Majlis.
For purposes of local government, Azerbaijan is divided into 71 administrative regions, consisting of 59 districts, 11 cities, and the autonomous republic of Naxc?van. The local government of Naxc?van adheres to the republicís constitution and cooperates with the central government. The enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has no official designation at this time. It was established as an autonomous region in 1923, but this status was officially abolished in 1991 due to the conflict in the region. In December 1991 Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself an independent republic, but neither Azerbaijan nor any other country, including Armenia, formally recognized its independence.
The formation of Azerbaijanís national armed forces began after the republic gained independence from the Soviet Union. By 2001 Azerbaijan had developed an army of about 62,000 troops, a navy of 2,200, and an air force of 7,900. Military service is compulsory for at least 17 months for all males, beginning at age 18.
Azerbaijan became a member of the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1992. In September 1993 the republic was admitted as a full member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose alliance of most of the former Soviet republics. In May 1994 Azerbaijan became a member of the Partnership for Peace program, which provides for limited military cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).