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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aliyev's Son Appointed Azeri Premier

ReutersAzerbaijan's parliament on Monday confirmed Ilham Aliyev as prime minister.
BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azerbaijan's parliament on Monday confirmed ailing President Heidar Aliyev's son as prime minister, which could ultimately catapult the younger Aliyev to the presidency.

Ilham Aliyev received the support of 101 of parliament's 124 members. One abstained, and the opposition boycotted the session. Heidar Aliyev, who has a history of heart problems, has been in a Turkish military hospital since July 8 and has not appeared in public during that time. The 80-year-old leader is running for re-election in October, but many observers believe he is laying ground to transfer power to Ilham Aliyev, who is also registered as a candidate.

According to constitutional amendments passed last year, the prime minister becomes acting president in the event that the president is incapacitated or resigns.

In Turkey, Azerbaijan's ambassador said Aliyev -- who officials had said was sent to the hospital for a planned follow-up visit -- was being treated for heart problems. "Let's call it a problem," Ambassador Mamed Aliyev said by telephone. "It is a problem in his heart."

The ambassador did not elaborate on the nature of Aliyev's heart problem.

Following the parliament vote, Azerbaijan's state news agency said Aliyev had signed a decree appointing his son as prime minister. Ilham Aliyev told reporters that his appointment would not lead to any radical changes in the government's policies.

"I believe our main goal is preserving the economic stability that has taken shape," he said. "I am not in favor of sudden movements. All issues should be solved one at a time."

Ilham Aliyev, who in recent years has served as first vice president of the state oil company, said his experience would serve him well in his new job.

Lawmaker Igbal Agazade of the opposition party Umud (Hope) said he and other Aliyev opponents left the meeting after they were told they would not be given the floor.

Agazade said he believes Heidar Aliyev died June 30 and therefore could not have nominated a new prime minister. "Today's illegal act of appointing Ilham Aliyev is a coup," he said.

Lawmakers were told that the previous prime minister, Artur Rasizade, had resigned "of his own will," pro-government lawmaker Zahid Oruj said. Heidar Aliyev appointed him first deputy prime minister, the state news agency said.

Heidar Aliyev's health has been at the center of attention in Azerbaijan since April, when he clutched his chest and fell backward during a speech. At the time, officials said he had experienced a sudden drop in blood pressure and that he had bruised his back and cracked one rib.

However, in an interview broadcast Sunday on Russia's Channel One television, Ilham Aliyev said his father had actually broken seven ribs.

A doctor at Ankara's Gulhane military hospital said Sunday that the president was in serious but stable condition.

The Azeri Embassy in Turkey said Monday that Aliyev's condition was "normal" and that he is expected to return home "sometime this week."

In the Channel One interview, Ilham Aliyev repeated earlier statements that he has registered as a candidate simply in order to more actively participate in his father's campaign.

Ilham Aliyev, 41, has in recent years been given an increasingly visible role in Azerbaijan. In addition to his job in the state oil company, he heads the national Olympic committee and is deputy chairman of his father's party, Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan).