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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
Profile: Ilham Aliyev

By Stephen Mulvey
BBC News Online

Ilham Aliyev, who is to succeed his father as Azerbaijan's new president, is trying hard to shake off his playboy image.

Ilham Aliyev
Ilham Aliyev is trying to shake off playboy image
He has been Prime Minister since August, and a deputy chairman of the ruling party since 1999, but he is still, as he puts it, "trying to become more like" his iron-willed father, a former KGB chief who has dominated the country for more than 30 years.

What everyone remembers about the younger Aliyev is his reputed fondness for high living and the roulette table.

Five years ago, Aliyev senior abruptly ordered all casinos in Azerbaijan to be closed, as reports circulated that Ilham Aliyev was massively in debt to a shady Turkish gambling magnate.

He has clearly done well for himself as a vice-president of the state oil company since 1994. He is plump, suavely dressed, speaks fluent English and has a ready smile.

Vote for me as I am the only one who will continue Aliyev's chosen path... I have tried and will try to be more and more like him
Ilham Aliyev at last rally on Monday
But as a politician he remains awkward. He has benefited from an expensive and glitzy campaign, but correspondents say he has been ill-at-ease when meeting voters.

"He is a highly intellectual individual who has a pragmatic approach to tackling issues, has a very good knowledge of the modern world, politics and economics, is energetic and has initiative," said Heydar Aliyev, earlier this month, anointing his son as his political successor.

The intelligence company Stratfor.com, which is reported to have links to the CIA, put it another way: "Ilham Aliyev lacks his father's charisma, political skills, contacts, experience, stature, intelligence and authority. Aside from that he will make a wonderful president."

Analysts are divided on how long he will last as president. Some see him as a transitional figure who will ensure a smooth succession, before handing over at some point in the future to another member of the ruling clan.

Despite being first deputy chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party he was nominated for the presidency not by the party but by a group of voters in the exclave of Nakhichevan, (sandwiched between Armenia and Iran) which has always been the Aliyevs' power base.

Money cushion

For now it is unclear whether Ilham Aliyev will run the clan, or whether it will run him.

Whatever happens, he has enough money to live in comfort abroad, and may well prefer that to the stresses and strains of political leadership.

Ilham Aliyev was born in 1961, the year after his father rose to head the KGB in Azerbaijan.

He graduated from Moscow's prestigious State Institute for International Relations (Mgimo) in 1982, the year his father joined the Soviet politburo, and later gained a PhD in history.

He got his job at Azerbaijan's state oil company the year after his father became president of newly-independent Azerbaijan.

His first ambition, reportedly, was to become a Soviet diplomat, but the USSR collapsed before he could realise it.

It was as a businessman in Moscow and Istanbul between 1991 and 1994 that he began to earn his playboy reputation.

He is married with three children.

Azeris vote for new leader
15 Oct 03  |  Europe
Azerbaijan's 'royal' succession
04 Aug 03  |  Europe
Profile: Heydar Aliyev
21 Apr 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Azerbaijan
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Azerbaijan
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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