The Cable

Azerbaijan’s President Makes His Wife Second in Command

Autocratic relationship goals.

goals

Ladies, can your man make you vice president of a country?

Probably not. Unless, of course, you happen to be the wife of the president in Azerbaijan, in which case your husband, Ilham Aliyev, just named you his deputy.

Putting all other power couples to shame, Aliyev made his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, vice president. Coincidentally, she’s the first vice president of Azerbaijan since the position was created by a referendum last year.

This lucky lady is now set to succeed her husband should he ever step down from the role. Her man’s been president since 2003, when he took over from his father. And he was reelected in 2008 in an election that opposition parties boycotted.

But there probably won’t be any boycotts of this appointment. Khadija Ismayilova, an award-winning investigative journalist who was arrested in December 2014 and released in May 2016, wrote on Facebook, “Wave of arrests preceded Mehriban Aliyeva’s appointment to vice-president position. Just in case if someone would dare to protest. Number of opposition activists were sentenced to one month administrative arrest, siblings of the activists abroad were harassed and blackmailed just days before the appointment.”

There’s even more good news for the Aliyev power couple: they’re not likely to meet any resistance from the international community. Between its well-documented lobbying efforts and oil and gas production, Azerbaijan has stayed in good standing in Washington, D.C. And, as a two-part report by the European Stability Initiative suggests, Azerbaijan has used “caviar diplomacy” with the Council of Europe.

There’s no mountain, valley, activist, or institution charged with watching human rights or preventing rampant nepotism that can stop this dream team from ruling Azerbaijan — currently ranked “not free” by Freedom House and famed for rampant human rights abuses — and from doing so together.

Correction, Feb. 23, 2017, 11:04 am ET: This piece originally incorrectly stated that a two-part report by the European Stability Initiative was by the Hudson Institute.

Photo credit: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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