BAKU (AP) : Azerbaijan s President Ilham Aliyev appointed his wife as the first vice president of the ex-Soviet nation on Tuesday. The position of VP means the person next in line in the nation s power hierarchy.
Ilham Aliyev, 55, named his wife Mehriban to the position created after a constitutional referendum in September. Mehriban graduated from a medical university and married her husband when she was 19. She has served previously as a lawmaker and headed a charity.
The first vice president takes over the presidency if the president is unable to perform his or her duties. It doesn t describe the first vice president s duties, but it s expected that they will include overseeing the Cabinet.
Aliyev s critics say the September referendum that also extended the presidential term from five to seven years effectively cemented a dynastic rule. In 2003, Aliyev succeeded his father, who had ruled Azerbaijan first as the Communist Party boss and then as a post-Soviet president for the greater part of three decades.
Aliyev and his wife have two daughters and a son.
Aliyev has firmly allied the energy-rich Shiite Muslim nation with the West, helping secure his country s energy and security interests and offset Russia s influence in the strategic Caspian Sea region. At the same time, his government has long faced criticism in the West for alleged human rights abuses and suppression of dissent.
Azerbaijan s leader has cast himself as a guarantor of stability, an image that has a wide appeal in the country where painful memories are still fresh of the turmoil that accompanied the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.