Azerbaijan's economic development minister fired with no explanation

Azerbaijan's president fired the country's economic development minister on Wednesday, the president's office said. President Ilham Aliev's office did not immediately provide a reason for the sacking of the minister, Farhad Aliev, who is not related to the president. Heydar Babayev, the head of the state committee for securities, was named to succeed him.

A parliamentary deputy, meanwhile, called for creation of a legislative commission to investigate the minister's activities in connection with the funds of the National Foundation for the Support of Entrepreneurship.

Legislator Mais Safarli alleged that the minister provided resources only to those close to the economic development minister, and supported creating monopolies.

Farhad Aliev was not immediately available for comment. However, he has previously claimed that his life was in danger because of his struggle against monopolies in Azerbaijan.

The sacking was announced just three weeks ahead of Azerbaijan's Nov. 6 parliamentary elections.

The minister's sacking resulted from fissures emerging within the governing elite and signaled a possible change of course for the Azerbaijani president, political analyst Zardusht Alizade said.

"Farhad Aliev had the support and sympathy of Western diplomats and his dismissal demonstrates that (the president) is inclined to change his political course from a pro-Western to a pro-Russian one," Alizade said.

Opposition parties have been holding rallies in the capital, Baku, nearly every weekend, accusing the government of an intention to rig the elections, and police have violently dispersed recent attempts to defy a ban on downtown protests, the AP says

Authorities have vowed to crack down harshly on any protests amid concerns that Azerbaijan could see a mass uprising similar to those that followed elections in other post-Soviet states over the past two years, including Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

On photo: Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliev.


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