Leader of the Nation Spat Erupts in Central Asia

14 Dec

Kazaxia has received this guest contribution on the fallout from Central Asia’s Leader of the Nation spat:

An unseemly legal spat is unfolding at the International Court of Justice as Kazakhstan sues Tajikistan over the right to use the honorific ‘Leader of the Nation’ for the president. Kazakhstan’s sudden lodging of the suit came as Tajikistan’s long-ruling president Emomali Rahmon was poised to sign a law designating himself with the contentious term.

‘I was gob-smacked when I learnt of this ridiculous suit,’ a Tajik diplomat in the Hague told Venality News, declining to give his name as he was not authorised to speak to the press. ‘There’s only one president worthy of the title, and that’s our esteemed and irreplaceable Emomali Rahmon. Indeed, he is so irreplaceable that he will never be replaced.’

But Kazakh diplomats insist that the slight to their veteran president Nursultan Nazarbayev will not go unpunished. ‘We have to stop this in its tracks,’ one told Venality News, also speaking anonymously. ‘Right now.’ He pointed out that Rahmon is a newcomer, having been president only since 1994. ‘Our illustrious president has a far longer and more dignified pedigree.’

The Kazakh diplomat also pointed to Nazabayev’s modesty, granting himself only immunity from prosecution for actions conducted as president. ‘Rahmon thinks he deserves immunity for life – is he going to go on a crime spree when he becomes senile?’

Long-time observers of the arcane world of presidential honorifics are sceptical about the claims of both parties. ‘While it’s clear that Rahmon nicked the idea off Nazarbayev, he in turn seems to have nicked the idea off Niyazov or Aliyev,’ says Ebenezer Prince de la Palace, Executive Grandmaster of the Institute for Pretentious Presidential Perquisites in San Marino, referring to the late Turkmen and Azerbaijani leaders.

Kazakhstan’s suit to the Hague-based United Nations court is also likely to trigger an honorific arms race. Kazakh lawmakers are already mulling two new laws presented by eager ruling party deputies. One would give Nazarbayev immunity not only for the rest of this life but posthumously also. The other would grant him the honorific ‘Leader of the Universe’. The proposers of the second law are taking no chances. They have included a clause to say that the title will be held eternally.

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