The preparation of a new constitution to replace the 1978 document (which had been based on the 1977 Soviet constitution) began in 1992, but adoption has been repeatedly delayed by civil and political turmoil. Pending the adoption of a new constitution, the fundamental document in the early 1990s was the October 18, 1991, Act of Independence, which government authorities have described as the basis for a new constitution. Meanwhile, the provisions of the 1978 constitution are valid if they do not violate or contradict the Act of Independence. The act declares that Azerbaijan is a secular, democratic, and unitary state, with equality of all citizens before the law. Freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights documents are upheld, and the right to form political parties is stipulated. The Act of Independence also proclaims Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and its sovereignty over all its territory. In October 1993, the Melli-Majlis revised the existing constitution of 1978, anticipating its retention for the time being. Finally deleted were the document's many references to "Soviet" and "communist" institutions and philosophy.
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