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Azeri ruling party calls for early parliamentary election - official

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan’s ruling party has decided to ask President Ilham Aliyev to call an early parliamentary election and has initiated the dissolution of parliament, a top party official said on Thursday, a month after a major government shake-up.

FILE PHOTO: Azeri President Ilham Aliyev attends a meeting with his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

The decision was taken at the Yeni Azerbaijan party’s political council meeting, party executive secretary Ali Akhmedov told reporters, adding it aimed to support the president’s policy on reforms and personnel changes.

The next election is not due until November 2021, but the president has the right to dissolve the parliament and call early election. The vote should take place three months after the parliament is dissolved.

Akhmedov told a news conference the early election would help modernise the country’s legislative branch and speed the course of economic reforms.

Aliyev made some high-profile changes in the government and his administration last month that included the appointment of 62-year-old economist Ali Asadov as prime minister.

The president criticised the pace of economic reforms and said he wanted to clear out members of his government who had reached a pensionable age, a move seen partly as intended to force out officials appointed during his father’s tenure.

The former Soviet country on the Caspian Sea is rich in oil and gas but many of the 10 million population see little benefit as the country grapples with inflation and unemployment.

Aliyev has held power since he was elected in October 2003, two months before the death of his father Heydar Aliyev. He also won elections in 2008, 2013 and 2018, and two separate referendums scrapped a two-term presidential limit and extended the presidential term to seven years from five.

He appointed his wife Mehriban Aliyeva first vice president, the second most powerful post after the president, in 2017.

Western nations have courted Azerbaijan because of its role as an alternative to Russia in supplying oil and gas to Europe, but various European bodies and rights groups have accused Aliyev of muzzling dissent and jailing opponents. Baku denies the accusations.

Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Alison Williams and Frances Kerry