Winter 2003 (11.4)
Aliyev Becomes President
On October 31, 2003,
Ilham Aliyev was inaugurated as Azerbaijan's new president. At
age 42, President Aliyev joins a rather youthful group of presidents
in the region - Russia's Vladimir Putin (52), Georgia's Mikhail
Saakashvili (36), and Armenia's Robert Kocharian (49). But few
of them can challenge the notion that their apprenticeship equaled
that of Ilham's, who had closely watched and stood beside his
politically astute father Heydar Aliyev, the driving force in
Azerbaijan's development since the 1970s.
The Inaugural Ceremony took place at the Republican Palace which
seats 3,000 guests. Elections had been carried out 15 days earlier.
In his Presidential acceptance speech, Ilham Aliyev pledged to
pursue similar policies to those of his father's, especially
in terms of foreign policy and development. So far, Ilham has
kept his father's ministerial staff.
Heydar Aliyev, who had been President since 1993, was not able
to attend the inaugural event as he was in Cleveland, Ohio, undergoing
medical treatment. Twelve days later (December 12), he passed
away and his body was flown back to Baku for a State Funeral,
which brought an incredible, spontaneous outpouring of sympathy
and solidarity from the public [See photo essay, page 2].
As is true at every major event in Azerbaijan, the primary entertainment
at the Inauguration came from superb music performances. A large
number of exceptionally talented youth had been invited to perform,
including Jujalarim boy drummers, folk dancers, and mugham singers.
What was missing at the event, if compared with previous inaugurations,
was some samples of classical music.
An elaborate Inauguration Dinner followed at the Gulustan Palace
for 500 guests, which included foreign dignitaries and diplomats
along with a few top managers of international oil companies.
Azerbaijan's most distinguished government leaders were present,
including the Cabinet of Ministers and Members of Parliament.
And, as is the tradition, many distinguished members of the intelligentsia
- especially writers, musicians, composers and artists - were
Simultaneously, while the dinner was going on at the Gulustan,
an open-air concert had been organized in front of the Government
House on Azadlig Square (Freedom Square). Thousands came to see
and enjoy. The evening ended with an elaborate display of fireworks
out over the bay.
Click on photos to enlarge
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