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Uzbekistan: Prime Minister Collects Facebook Friends

Perhaps this belongs to the department of "if you can't beat them, join them" -- the prime minister of Uzbekistan seems to have a Facebook page. (It could be a spoofed page, but it appears authentic.)

On Facebook, Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev (if it's really him) doesn't just have an automatically-generated public figure page or a fan page that somebody made -- it's his individual page. He has 1,787 friends.

Although Uzbekistan has been trying to control the Internet to prevent any imitation of the Arab Spring, the number of web users has doubled to more than 7.7 million in the last year. The government has even encouraged an ersatz Facebook social network called Muloqot that promises data-scraping by the secret police instead of just by a private company.

From the Facebook page, you can see that Mirziyoyev is inspired by Nicolas Sarkozy, Lee Myung-bak, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and last but not least -- or maybe last and therefore least? -- Islam Karimov.

Under activities, Mirziyoyev has other pages he likes by Leon Panetta, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, MTS Uzbekistan -- and Karimov and Obama again among others.

For his religion, he puts "100 percent Islam," and for his political views he posts "conservative" which comes with a picture of the 18th century Irish statesman and Whig Edmund Burke. What does that mean, exactly, this "like" of a Western conservative? Burke supported the American revolution, but opposed the French revolution.

Mirziyoyev doesn't seem to control the comments on his wall very much -- under his last uploaded photo, which shows him flanked by Lukashenka and other regional leaders, a friend writes, "Except Medvedev, this is a nice shashlyk of gansters!"

If this is a PR campaign, it's not clear where it's going. Mirziyoyev is believed to be a rival to Karimov in Uzbekistan's murky power struggles, or a possible spoiler of Karimov's king-making, as Karimov is preoccupied with his succession.

His gmail address is provided, so write and ask any questions! Don't expect any cat or dog photos, however.

Uzbekistan: Prime Minister Collects Facebook Friends

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