President of Azerbaijan appoints his wife as first vice-president

Darren Sullivan
February 23, 2017

Azerbaijan s President Ilham Aliyev appointed his wife as the first vice president of the ex-Soviet nation on Tuesday. "I was guided by these factors when taking the decision to name her as first vice-president of Azerbaijan", he said.

Move comes on the coattails of a referendum seen as part of President Aliyev's strategy to cement his family's grip on power. The appointment places her next in line to the president in the country's hierarchy and has sparked condemnation from the opposition.

"The move throws Azerbaijan back to medieval, feudal times", Opposition leader Isa Gambar of Musavat party told AFP.

Reports state that Mehriban's official title will be first vice president. She is also the head of the prestigious and influential Heydar Aliyev foundation which was named after the former president who happened to be her father-in-law. In such case, until new President of the Azerbaijan Republic is elected, the First Vice-President of the Azerbaijan Republic will carry out powers of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic.

Elevation of Mehriban Aliyeva - a prominent socialite and lawmaker - sees her now become the country's second most senior official after her husband.

Her husband, on the other hand, rules Azerbaijan since his father Heidar died in 2003.

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Mehriban had graduated from a medical university. The appointment follows constitutional changes made after a tightly-managed referendum previous year that introduced the powerful position of first vice president.

She also is a goodwill ambassador of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. She heads the country's largest NGO, the Heydar Aliyev Fund.

She pays a lot of attention to luxury and has been featured in Wikileaks' US diplomatic cables.

"President Ilham Aliyev is the person most responsible for Azerbaijan's appalling human rights record of the last decade", Freedom House, a pro-democracy watchdog, has said.

The leaked cables also derided her expensive taste in fashions and cosmetic surgery.