Azerbaijan President Aliyev makes wife Mehriban his deputy

image sourceAP
image captionMehriban can now rule Azerbaijan if her husband is incapacitated

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has appointed his wife Mehriban to serve as first vice-president, further tightening his grip on power in the oil-rich Caucasus republic.

The appointment was announced on the presidential website.

Ilham Aliyev has ruled Azerbaijan since the death of his father Heydar in 2003.

Mehriban Aliyeva, 52, is an MP who trained in medicine and heads the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The state-run media often focus on the Aliyev family.

image sourceAP
image captionThe ruling couple, seen here in 2009, have been married since 1983 and have three children

Human rights campaigners deplore President Aliyev's crackdown on dissent and corruption in state bodies. The government denies the allegations.

In September, Mr Aliyev organised a referendum which created a strong vice-presidency and extended the presidential term to seven years, from five.

Last year leaked US diplomatic documents said that despite being an MP, the president's wife appeared poorly informed about political issues. The leaked cables also derided her expensive taste in fashions and cosmetic surgery.

Her father Arif Pashayev is a wealthy and successful businessman in Azerbaijan. Mehriban and Ilham Aliyev have three children.

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