Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has appointed his wife as the country’s first vice president, just months after the position was created through a constitutional referendum.
A brief statement from the presidency said First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva had been appointed First Vice-President at the order of Ilham Aliyev. The announcement was made on Tuesday morning during a meeting of the country’s Security Council.
“Mr. President, I express my deep gratitude to you for this high confidence in me,” Mehriban Aliyeva was quoted as saying by the Azerbaijan Press Agency. “I believe that I will be able to justify this confidence shown by you, Mr. President, and all the people that believe in me.”
Mehriban Aliyeva added: “Over the past years, your ideas of statehood, patriotism, your courageous protection of Azerbaijan’s national interests, and your unity with the people of Azerbaijan, were an example for me and those who work with me, and guided our activities.”
The appointment comes just months after voters approved dozens of constitutional amendments, including one that created the position of First Vice-President along with several other vice presidents. The first vice-president can be appointed or dismissed by the president.
Under the constitutional amendment, the first vice-president will become (acting) president if the president is incapacitated. Those duties previously devolved to the prime minister, who is now second in line after the first vice president.
First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, who is often described as glamorous and a prominent socialite, has long been rumored to be a likely successor for her husband. She is also the head of the influential Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which was named after her father-in-law and former president.
“The move throws Azerbaijan back to medieval, feudal times. Family rule has no place in the 21st century,” opposition leader Isa Gambar of the Musavat party told the AFP news agency, responding to Tuesday’s appointment.
The referendum in September also approved a number of other amendments, including one that extends the presidential term from five to seven years. President Ilham Aliyev has ruled the oil-rich Caspian nation since October 2003, when he took over from his father.
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