Azerbaijan strongman appoints wife vice president

Azerbaijan strongman appoints wife vice president

The regime's opponents have criticised the September referendum, which also extended the presidential term from five to seven years, as a way for Aliyev to consolidate his power.

Born in an elite family, Aliyeva's website notes that her mother Aida Imanguliyeva was a professor in Arabic literature, the first female professor in the country.

Her father Arif Pashayev is a wealthy and successful businessman in Azerbaijan. The country plans to export the fuel to Europe, where nations adopting the terms of the Paris climate change agreement - the same nations losing political leverage to President Vladimir Putin by importing Russian crude - stand ready to accept a steady flow of the "greener" fossil fuel. The appointment follows constitutional changes made after a tightly-managed referendum a year ago that introduced the powerful position of first vice president.

Aliyev added that Mehriban's work as president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation played a key part in his decision-making.

She founded and has served as the head of the "Fund of Azerbaijan's Friends" for over two decades, has become a UNESCO goodwill ambassador, and received the title of "Woman of the Year" in her home country.

Aliyeva, 52, was appointed Member of Parliament in 2008 and is the deputy chairperson of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party.

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The first vice president takes over the presidency if the president is unable to perform his or her duties.

European institutions and rights bodies accuse the Azeri authorities of curbing free expression.

"The move throws Azerbaijan back to medieval, feudal times", opposition leader Isa Gambar of the Musavat party told AFP. The country's first lady is best known for her extravagant tastes and dressing sense.

Known for her lavish tastes, Ms. Aliyeva featured prominently in USA diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks, one of which dubbed her "a first lady, too, in fashion".

"First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva appears to have had substantial cosmetic surgery, presumably overseas, and wears dresses that would be considered provocative even in the Western world", one leaked cable said.