The president of Azerbaijan picked his wife to be his vice president

The president of oil-rich Azerbaijan picked his wife to be the nation's first-ever vice-president on Tuesday, a move which critics say effectively ensures dynastic rule in the ex-Soviet country.

President Ilham Aliyev, 55, named his wife Mehriban Aliyeva, 52, as vice president after he ordered a referendum last year to create the role and extend his own term from 5 to 7 years.

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Presidential Historians Survey 2017: Presidential ranking
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Presidential Historians Survey 2017: Presidential ranking

43. President James Buchanan

2009: 42
2000: 41

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42. Andrew Johnson

2009: 41
2000: 40

(Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

41. President Franklin Pierce

2009: 40
2000: 39

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

40. President Warren G. Harding

2009: 38
2000: 38

(Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

39. President John Tyler

2009: 35
2000: 36

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

38. President William Henry Harrison

2009: 39
2000: 37

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

37. President Millard Fillmore

2009: 37
2000: 35

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

36. President Herbert Hoover

2009: 34
2000: 34

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35. Chester Arthur

2009: 32
2000: 32

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34. President Martin Van Buren

2009: 31
2000: 30

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United States President George W. Bush announces his plan for jobs and economic growth at the Economic Club of Chicago. His plan features $674 billion in tax cuts and benefits. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
1864: Rutherford B Hayes (1822 - 1893), in his uniform as a Major General in the Union Army. Hayes later served as Republican Governer of Ohio and became the 19th President of the United States after winning the election of 1876. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
circa 1850: Millard Fillmore (1800 - 1874), 13th President of the United States of America. Fillmore was vice-president to Zachary Taylor and became President upon his death. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
377869 57: Zachary Taylor, twelfth President of the United States who served from 1849 to 1850. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States. Elected in 1888, Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States. (Photo by Library Of Congress/Getty Images)
377869 20: Portrait of 20th United States President James A Garfield. (1881) (Courtesy of the National Archives/Newsmakers)
circa 1954: Studio headshot portrait of American vice president Richard Nixon (1913 - 1994) wearing a jacket and tie. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Calvin Coolidge is seen here, (1872-1933), the 30th President of the United States. This is a head and shoulders photograph.
American President Jimmy Carter (Photo by ?? David Rubinger/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) President Gerald Ford is seen here in a head and shoulder 3/4 profile.
377869 75: William H. Taft, twenty-seventh President of the United States serving from 1909 to 1913. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
377869 24: Portrait of 24th United States President Grover Cleveland. (1837-1908) (Courtesy of the National Archives/Newsmakers)
General Ulysses S Grant, American soldier and politician, c1860s (1955). Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885) commanded the Union (northern) army in the American Civil War from March 1864, leading it to final victory the following year. He was elected the 18th President of the United States in 1869, holding office until 1877. A print from Mathew Brady Historian with a Camera by James D Horan, Bonanza Books, New York, 1955. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
377869 71: John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States serving from 1825 to 1829. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
WASHINGTON, DC -- CIRCA 1986: U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush circa 1986 in in Washington, DC. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
John Trumbull, Portrait of John Adams (1735-1826), President of the United States (1797-1801), United States, Washington. National portrait gallery, . (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
circa 1825: Andrew Jackson (1767 - 1845), seventh president of the United States of America. (Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)
Portrait of James Madison, the 'Father of the Constitution,' by an unknown artist (oil on canvas from the White House collection, Washington DC), 1816. The portrait was commissioned by James Monroe. (Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)
377869 25: Portrait of 25th United States President William McKinley. (1897-1901) (Courtesy of the National Archives/Newsmakers)

15. President Bill Clinton

2009 rank: 15
2000 rank: 21

(Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

14. President James K. Polk

2009 rank: 12
2000 rank: 12

(Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

13. President James Monroe

2009 rank: 14
2000 rank: 14

(Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

12. President Barack Obama

2009 rank: N/A
2000 rank: N/A

(Photo credit ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

11. President Woodrow Wilson

2009 rank: 9
2000 rank: 6

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10. President Lyndon B. Johnson

2009 rank: 11
2000 rank: 10

(Photo by Berlin-Bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

9. President Ronald Reagan

2009 rank: 10
2000 rank: 11

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8. President John F. Kennedy

2009 rank: 6
2000 rank: 8

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7. President Thomas Jefferson

2009 rank: 7
2000 rank: 7

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6. President Harry S. Truman

2009 rank: 5
2000 rank: 5

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5. President Dwight D. Eisenhower

2009 rank: 8
2000 rank: 9

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4. President Theodore Roosevelt

2009 rank: 3
2000 rank: 2

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3. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

2009 rank: 3
2000 rank: 2

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2. President George Washington

2009 rank: 2
2000 rank: 3

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1. President Abraham Lincoln

2009 rank: 1
2000 rank: 1

(Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)


The resolutions passed in September with more than 90 percent of the votes, though European democracy watchdogs have criticized past votes in the country as having vote-rigging.

"The move throws Azerbaijan back to medieval, feudal times," opposition leader Isa Gambar of the Musavat party told AFP.

President Ilham Aliyev has been in power since 2003, when he won a much criticized election after his father, Heydar Aliyev, stepped down amid failing health. Heydar Aliyev was the leader of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, and was president of the Republic of Azerbaijan from 1993 to 2003.

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If Aliyev was incapacitated, Aliyeva would be next in line to take over the presidency. Azerbaijan's constitution does not specify the other duties for the position.

Until her appointment, Aliyeva led a charitable foundation to promote the political legacy of her father-in-law by sponsoring music and dance performances in Paris and Moscow. Born into a powerful Azerbaijani family, Aliyeva is the granddaughter of a well-known writer and the niece of a former ambassador to the US.

The couple has been married since 1983 and has three children.

Despite an increase in diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and the US, the country is still regularly criticized for electoral fraud and human rights violations at the governmental level.

Critics have said the resolutions passed in September give Aliyev "unprecedented powers" and were passed under suspicious circumstances, according to Reuters.

"The referendum has been accompanied by arrests and intimidation from the beginning," Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement. "Those who have attempted to criticize and campaign against these proposals have faced assaults and harassment by the authorities."

As Aliyev welcomed his wife to the new position, members of the country's higehst law-making body in Baku rose and clapped.

The controversial move has also been met with criticism from the country's top journalists, who pointed out the irony in having a president appoint his wife to Azerbaijan's second-highest post.

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