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Kazakhstan: Bloggers condemn the “Leader of the Nation” project

The parliament in Kazakhstan came out with the initiative to give a “Leader of the Nation” status to incumbent president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The former Kazakh Communist party’s secretary, a strongman that rules his country for more than 20 years, is to celebrate his 70th birthday July 6. This day is celebrated in Kazakhstan as the Astana Day, the holiday to praise the capital city – 11 years ago it was moved from Almaty to Akmola (now Astana, which means “capital” in Kazakh) by a sole decision of Nazarbayev, who regards Astana as his personal pet project. In spite of very frequent cases of human rights abuses and overall restrictive political environment, the country was given a post of the OSCE chairman, which it currently occupies.

Interestingly, in addition to the status – pretty nominal, especially taking into account the already in-force Law on the First President, providing guarantees of non-persecution and also the right to influence politics after possible retirement – the MPs decided giving the president and (sic!) his family members full immunity from all criminal or administrative offences he committed during the presidency or afterwards. Another point of the new law is to legislatively give him a supreme authority in political decision-making. Finally, MPs suggested introducing of some sacralization components – they want to make it illegal to defame the president, distort facts of his biography, and even damage or ridicule his images.

Yelikbayev fancies how long his president has been in power:

Last week marked twenty years since Nursultan Nazarbaev became president. My younger brother turned the same age this year. All his life, he has seen his country led by one man. We moved from the village to the city […] but his presence has been constant.

In France, Mitterrand was succeeded by Chirac, and he by Sarkozy. In the States, Clinton took the place of Bush Sr., after whom came Bush Jr. and Obama. Yeltsin moved over to make room for Putin, who let in Medvedev for a short while. And all these years, we had one man report to us annually on the state of affairs.

They removed homosexuality from the WHO’s list of diseases. They tore down the Berlin Wall and blew up the Twin Towers. They executed Andrei Chikatillo and Saddam Hussein. They invented the iPhone and SARS. But they haven’t managed to change the face that appears every year on television to congratulate the citizens of Kazakhstan.

Many in Kazakhstan are bewildered by the proposed status – “Leader of the nation” – and stress that such title was usually given by the thankful descendants to the retired or passed away rulers. Or, as megakhuimyak says, to other people having great deserts before the state [ru]:

In Pakistan lives their leader of the nation, nuclear physicist Abdul Kadyr Khan, who created the Pakistani A-bomb. It secures the existence of Pakistan as a state and serves as the only constraint to the India’s full-scale aggression.

Meanwhile, pycm makes fun of the proposed title's formulation [ru]:

Well, now if we have a Leader of the Nation, logically there should be other institutions – lsay, Dealer of the Nation, Conscience of the Nation, Shame of the Nation, Beauty of the Nation and Horror of the Nation, Dough of the Nation, Vagabond of the Nation… I wonder, will they elect or appoint them?

A-strekoza feels less jokingly [ru]:

Until recently I didn’t believe I live in a totalitarian state. Sure, Kazakhstan is a safer place comparing to the neighbor countries […].

But today I am forced to propose a toast for the Leader of the Nation. The most democratic parliament in the world didn’t even presume any alternative […] Now they should elegantly hold a referendum to demonstrate – it’s not his will, it is the people, who love and worship him.

Aridni is depressed too [ru]:

This is to what exorbitant vanity together with senile marasmus lead. […] The people are just a flock of sheep; we avoid politics, and while there is no war and our fridges are full with a food, nobody will protest and oppose the current government.

But giving him and his family immunity from criminal responsibility is really too much. This is actually a nonsense – if there is something, for what he can be prosecuted, then he cannot bear a title of “Leader of the Nation”. If there is nothing to blame him for, then what’s this fuss about? Such a shame…

Some people still think that president Nazarbayev will veto this law to demonstrate how sane and democratic he is. Such “performances” were already played before the Kazakhstani society – and certainly before the international community – in the past. Alim-atenbek has even more daring hypothesis [ru]:

He may sign the law into force and then say: “People, I am tired. Thank you for such honor, here is my approval, and here is the guy who’ll be instead of me”. This looks like a pretty believable scenario.

One way or another, the law was very quickly passed through both chambers of the Kazakhstani parliament. Now the president must say his word in 30-days period.

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