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Azerbaijan: Thousands Protest Ilham's Appointment As Premier

Baku, 9 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the Azerbaijani capital Baku today to protest the appointment of President Heidar Aliyev's son, Ilham (pictured), as prime minister and to demand free elections. Opposition parties claim Aliyev's purported decision to have his 41-year-son run the government on 4 August is an attempt to turn Azerbaijan into a monarchy.

Both Aliyevs are candidates in the presidential polls scheduled for 15 October.

Aliyev has spent one month in a Turkish military hospital and is now being treated in a U.S. clinic for heart and kidney problems. The 80-year-old leader has remained out of public view for most of the past four months, raising speculation that he might be unfit to run the country.

In related news, Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission today approved two new presidential candidates, bringing to seven the number of officially registered contenders.