Tajikistan’s President: Don’t Love Me So Much

Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon is tired of the “toadyism.” Suddenly modest, he’s told his government to knock off the lavish receptions everywhere he goes because they are embarrassing. From Reuters:

"I feel ashamed of your toadyism," an enraged Rakhmon told a government meeting in remarks broadcast by state television.

"Ordinary people, residents of the towns and districts where I come on working visits, keep complaining to me: 'They empty our pockets on your every trip...gathering money for a tribute, a carpet, a rug, flowers and feasts'."

"What's that? Stop it! I don't need any of this."

A video posted by RFE/RL in November shows what Rakhmon is talking about, though it certainly seems he’s having a good time. (Western diplomats who have met Rakhmon confide they fear that he is too cut off from the outside world, that his handlers have concocted a cult of personality to shelter him in a cloud of sycophancy and take increasing control over matters of state.)

This isn’t the first time the president has told his government to cease the flattery. In 2009, he said he was tired of seeing his face plastered over government buildings and billboards. But the glorification continued -- some might say grew -- after his comments. The thing with shahs is that you’re never sure if they’re speaking in riddles. And, at the time, many interpreted his comments as an instruction to post photos of him alone, not with other local dignitaries, lest they use his visage to boost their own standing.

In his January 18 speech, Rakhmon also lashed out at officials for privileging their children, Asia-Plus reported on January 20. Particularly notorious are the offspring with posh cars cruising up and down Rudaki Avenue in central Dushanbe, enjoying immunity and impunity because they have special number plates that distinguish them to police, such as 7777 and 8888.

The privileges must stop, Rakhmon said, and the bad behavior of others’ scions should not be blamed on “the president’s relatives.”

Rakhmon did say his own son should be punished if he does something wrong, but thus far he has not set a great example for fairness with 24-year-old Rustam Emomali, whom many think the president is grooming for succession. Emomali was recently named head of Tajikistan’s Football Federation and runs a government anti-smuggling outfit.

In popular grumbling, Emomali is the most notorious for abusing his bloodline. He was the target of particular rage after a series of unruly football matches last fall when the team he captained, Istiklol Dushanbe, won several games thanks to controversial calls from the referee. 

Tajikistan’s President: Don’t Love Me So Much

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