Azerbaijan President appoints wife as VP

The presidential website says that on Tuesday, Ilham Aliyev had presented Mehriban Aliyeva as the country's first vice president at a meeting of the national security council. "I was guided by these factors when taking the decision to name her as first vice-president of Azerbaijan", he said.

Aliyeva, 52, has been a prominent ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party lawmaker since 2005 and head of the influential Heydar Aliyev Foundation - named after her father-in-law and former president.

The posts of the first vice president was introduced in Azerbaijan following a constitutional referendum held on September 26, 2016.

The President also abolished the prerequisite minimum age for a presidential candidate, which had been 35.

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In 2004, she was appointed a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations culture agency UNESCO.

She is also a member of Parliament and President of the country's gymnastics federation.

"Your support is behind every success and achievement you've mentioned", the first lady added, addressing her husband of almost 35 years.

The constitution does not spell out the first vice president's powers, but it is expected they will include overseeing the cabinet.

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Mehriban Aliyeva's 55-year-old husband has been Azerbaijan's president since 2003.

"This appointment shows disrespect to the people", Ali Kerimli, the leader of Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party, said.

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

"Mehriban Aliyeva has headed the preparations for the most important large-scale projects in the humanitarian and social spheres in Azerbaijan", Gusman said.

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One opposition leader denounced the move as a "first step to establishment of an absolute majority".

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