Kyrgyzstan: Making a Mountain Out of a Mole? Not So Easy
A few weeks ago, Kyrgyz Premier Almazbek Atambayev, said he would name a mountain after his Russian counterpart, ex-spy Vladimir Putin. Several days after the chuckle-worthy proposal, Atambayev returned victorious from Moscow with important economic concessions.
But now the prime minister is facing some unexpected opposition from an embarrassing source -- the law. RFE/RL reports:
Ata-Meken (Fatherland) faction member Joomart Saparbaev told RFE/RL on January 26 the proposal violates a Kyrgyz law that bans giving geographic locations the names of living politicians and prominent people.
Saparbaev said that "unfortunately, our laws are being violated on a regular basis, but we have to make sure that the government and the parliament respect the laws."
He said it was "impermissible" to make government decisions "simply to satisfy someone's political ambitions" or "dictated by the current political situation."
Christening a mountain after the Russian strongman could make Kyrgyzstan “a laughing stock,” Regnum reported Saparbayev as saying: "I don't think using the name of a famous politician will strengthen the friendship of peoples. We may instead become a laughing stock. The logic remains unclear to me. Why [use] the name of Vladimir Putin and not Russian President Dmitry Medvedev?”
During the campaign for Kyrgyzstan’s parliament last fall, Russia’s Kremlin-friendly press criticized Ata-Meken for being too “pro-Western,” and, by default, anti-Russian. The party’s leader -- characterized in the same media reports as a sex-fiend -- drafted the country’s new constitution, which Russia opposes because it weakens the office of president in favor of a more diffuse legislature. (Russian television is viewed widely in Kyrgyzstan and shapes public opinion across Central Asia.) After the vote, in which the party fared worse than expected, Ata-Meken was left out of coalition talks. Party leaders griped they were being sidelined on Moscow’s orders.
Perhaps sensing the Mt. Putin debate is not working in Kyrgyzstan’s favor, provisional President Roza Otunbayeva complained on January 27 that parliament has too little to show for itself, six weeks after legislators took their seats. Accusing lawmakers of engaging in “populism” and declaring herself “ready to take drastic measures,” she said she would disband the body if it did not stop the “political games.”
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.