Almost inevitably, a group of deputies in Tajikistan has proposed a draft bill to designate President Emomali Rahmon the “leader of the nation.”
Nothing is known yet about what specific additional powers the honorific might endow on Rahmon, but the proposal fits into a broader pattern of state-sponsored adulation of the president.
Asia-Plus reported that the legislation to create the title — the full name of which is “Founder of Peace and Harmony: Leader of the Nation” — is being studied at committee stage in parliament. Since 51 out of the 63 seats in parliament are held by the ruling People’s Democratic Party, there can be little doubt how that is going to pan out.
Perhaps the only surprising aspect of this proposal is that is has not come earlier. Rahmon’s portraits are a ubiquitous sight across the country and power has been increasingly consolidated in his hands with the elimination of all political opponents.
Central Asia is familiar with such personalized styles of leadership.
Under legislation approved in 2010, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev was named “Leader of the Nation,” a title that gave him and his family lifelong immunity and bestowed Nazarbayev with the right to intervene in policy-making following his retirement.
Rahmon’s elevation to the made-up leader of the nation status may in part be designed to do away with the legalities technically limiting his right to seek reelection in perpetuity.
Even supporters of the president concede that Rahmon would not be permitted to run again once his current seven-year term runs out in 2020.
That provision was again enshrined in constitutional amendments approved by referendum in 2003. Those changes did, however, remove the upper age limit for hopeful presidential candidates, which previously stood at 65. Rahmon is now 63.