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Azerbaijan Ponders Legislation To 'Protect National Leader'

Heydar Aliyev (right) with his son Ilham in 2003

Heydar Aliyev (right) with his son Ilham in 2003

BAKU -- Azerbaijani parliament deputies are considering the possibility of submitting a law establishing former President Heydar Aliyev as the "all-national leader," RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Deputy Jala Aliyeva told parliament during a session this week that a working group should be established to prepare such legislation.

"The people have already selected Heydar Aliyev as their national leader. We, the legislators, have a major obligation to protect the national leader's legacy, personality, honor, and dignity," she said.

"I propose the establishment of a working group in the Milli Majlis to discuss the issue in the spring session."

Aliyeva, who is not related to Aliyev, did not say how precisely the law would protect Aliyev or if it would apply to his son, Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father as president.

Aliyev was leader of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan from 1969-82 and president of independent Azerbaijan from 1993 until his death in 2003.

Deputies from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party and other pro-government parties made similar suggestions in previous sessions of parliament.

Ali Hasanov, head of sociopolitical department at the presidential administration, told the Trend news agency on November 15 that "a law on an all-national leader" could be adopted.

"If there is a proposal to adopt such a law, it has a right to be discussed," he said. "Those who put forth the proposal are the owners of a certain intellect and have knowledge about similar laws in [other parts of] the world."

Any Need For Such A Law?

Some Baku residents told RFE/RL on November 16 that they would support the adoption of such a law but others said they saw no need for such legislation to declare the former president the leader of the nation and perhaps give him or his family -- including the current president -- additional privileges and powers.

Some said they consider Mammad Amin Rasulzade, the founder of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, to be an all-national leader of the country.

Ali Karimli, leader of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, told RFE/RL that if adopted, the law would be one of the last steps in bringing Azerbaijan on a level with other authoritarian regimes.

"They will neither be able to deceive history in this way nor change Azerbaijani people's attitude toward themselves," Karimli said.

"On the contrary, such a step will increase protests within Azerbaijani society. The society will recognize how the dynasty that has seized power treats them, humiliates them."

Karimli said passage of such legislation would be a mistake by the authorities.

Read more in Azeri here

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