Azerbaijan leader's wife becomes country's first vice president

Azerbaijan leader's wife becomes country's first vice presidentAzerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as first vice president of Azerbaijan, according to AP on Tuesday.

The position was only created after a constitutional referendum in September.

Mehriban Aliyeva has served as a lawmaker and headed a charity in the past.

Aliyev's critics saw September's referendum that also extended the presidential term from five to seven years as effectively cementing 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 has firmly allied the energy-rich Shia Muslim nation with the West, helping secure his country's energy and security interests and offset Russia's influence in the strategic Caspian 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.

The constitution doesn't describe the first vice president's powers, but it's expected that they will include overseeing the Cabinet.
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