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Azerbaijan's leader names his wife as first vice president

Azerbaijan's leader names his wife as first 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. "It's the first step to the establishment of an absolute monarchy in the country".

"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", according to one state department cable leaked in 2010.

Mr Aliyev said his wife had for many years played an important role in social, political, cultural and worldwide affairs.

Her father Arif Pashayev is a wealthy and successful businessman in Azerbaijan. The head of state underlined that a number of important projects are being implemented in Azerbaijan through the financial support of Japan, adding very important infrastructure projects had already been commissioned in the country through Japanese government's loans.

The couple has been married since 1983 and has three children.

President Ilham Aliyev, 55, named his wife, Mehriban, 52, to the position that was created by a constitutional referendum in September.




The constitution does not spell out the first vice president's powers, but it is expected they will include overseeing the cabinet. Heydar Aliyev was the leader of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, and was president of the Republic of Azerbaijan from 1993 to 2003.

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

"This appointment shows disrespect to the people", Ali Kerimli, the leader of Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party, said. The country's first lady is best known for her extravagant tastes and dressing sense.

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

She also has a Ph.D.in philosophy and she is a member of the Parliament, the president of a charitable foundation and a UNESCO and ISESCO ambassador. "President Ilham Aliyev is the person most responsible for Azerbaijan's appalling human rights record of the last decade", pro-democracy watchdog Freedom House has said.

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