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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aliyev Pins His Hopes For a Dynasty on Son

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BAKU, Azerbaijan -- It came as little surprise last week when state television announced that the Azeri president, Heidar Aliyev, wouldn't be running in this month's election.

Despite insistence from the authorities that he would return to Azerbaijan and continue his presidential campaign, no one really expected Aliyev to run for a third term in office. After all, he's spent most of the last five months in the hospital.

At the moment, he's in a clinic in the United States being treated for kidney and heart problems. Doctors have been tight-lipped about his condition, but the government here says he is recovering well and will be coming home any minute.

No one believes that any more. If he was even remotely well, we'd have seen blurry black-and-white photographs of him enjoying a bowl of soup in the Baku Worker newspaper.

The news that he won't be standing in next week's election marks the end of a very long era. Aliyev first came to power in Azerbaijan in 1969. It was the year Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and the Beatles topped the charts.

Within years, the astute young leader had scaled the KGB ladder and become a favorite of then First Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. He remained a leading member of the Politburo until the Gorbachev era, when a reshuffle sent him packing to his native Nakhchivan.

There he bided his time, watching as the Soviet Union collapsed and a disastrous independent government came to power in Azerbaijan. As the war with neighbouring Armenia escalated, the country's new head of state, Abulfaz Elchibey, begged Aliyev to take over.

And so in 1993, Aliyev returned to power, securing a cease-fire with the Armenians and negotiating a multibillion-dollar contract with Western companies to exploit the country's oil and gas fields. But is this really the end of the Aliyev era?

In his message to the nation, Aliyev said he was withdrawing from the election in favor of his son. Ilham Aliyev, whose droopy moustache and hefty paunch make him look like a walrus, was never interested in politics.

He's been dubbed a playboy and a gambler, but earlier this year, his father appointed him prime minister, and now he's running for president. He's unlikely to lose. Next week's election is shaping up to be no more free and fair than the last one.

The question is, can Ilham hold together the quarrelsome factions within the government? Most people I've spoken to say no, that he lacks the experience and the charisma of his father. Which means the dynasty Heidar Aliyev is attempting to establish may not be around for as long as he had hoped.

Chloe Arnold is a freelance journalist based in Baku, Azerbaijan.