Tajikistan leader creates holiday in his own honour
Dushanbe (Tajikistan) (AFP) –
Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon on Saturday signed a law to create a holiday honouring his autocratic rule in a move that fuels fears of a burgeoning personality cult in the Central Asian state.
Amendments to the Law on Holidays were passed without opposition last month in a parliament packed with Rakhmon loyalists who agreed that November 16 would be the date the 'President's Day' holiday will be celebrated.
The law was accepted "taking into account the significant political experience and huge contribution" to peace and national unity in Tajikistan made by Rakhmon, according to a statement from the presidential press service.
The date was chosen because the former collective farm boss was elected head of parliament on November 16, 1992, as the ex-Soviet state reeled from the outbreak of a civil war won five years later by pro-government forces.
Rakhmon was later elected president in 1994.
A referendum scheduled for May 22 is likely to trigger constitutional changes allowing Rakhmon to run for office an unlimited number of times.
Authorities have recently pushed through a growing number of initiatives celebrating Rakhmon's reign, which is regularly lambasted by rights organisations as corrupt and repressive.
In February Tajikistan's youth affairs committee launched a contest for the best essays by schoolchildren in praise of strongman Rakhmon's "heroic" rule.
The competition called for children to submit their essays on the topic: "Young People: Followers of the Leader of the Nation", which is Rakhmon's official title.
The former Soviet-ruled Central Asian region is dominated by aging autocrats -- some of whom have been in power since the collapse of the USSR -- and has seen the emergence of often bizarre cults of personality.
The former president of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov -- who died in 2006 -- renamed one of the months of the year after his mother.
© 2016 AFP