September 29, 2011 / 2:53 PM / 6 years ago

Praise or pander: Kyrgyzstan honors the neighbors

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Nobel nominations and naming mountains after the leaders of its more powerful neighbors has one of Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentarians in a snit over what he calls “toadyism”

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted on Thursday to nominate Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of next-door neighbor Kazakhstan, for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, leading one lawmaker to slam the move as a sycophantic gesture aimed at flattering its rich neighbor.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest economy where most of the 16.5 million population share ethnic Turkic roots and Muslim faith with Kyrgyzstan, has provided fuel, food and other assistance to its neighbor.

Impoverished Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous nation of 5.5 million which hosts U.S. and Russian military air bases, has seen two of its presidents deposed by bloody revolts since 2005. Over 400 people were killed in ethnic clashes last year.

Closing a daily session, Kyrgyz parliamentary speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov put forward his own motion to nominate Nazarbayev for the Nobel Peace Prize next year for his “peace-building and global leadership in nuclear disarmament.”

In 1991, Nazarbayev oversaw the closure of the Soviet nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk in eastern Kazakhstan. After the Soviet Union’s demise the same year, Kazakhstan voluntarily gave up its nuclear arsenal, the world’s fourth-largest.

A total 91 deputies of the 113 present voted to support the initiative of the Kyrgyz speaker, which he said would now be forwarded to Norway’s parliament.

But in a nod to Kyrgyzstan’s heavy economic dependence on its giant neighbor, deputy Kanybek Imanaliyev stood up and exclaimed: “This really looks like sheer toadyism!”

“This flattery ... had not been discussed before and appeared on the agenda all of a sudden at the last moment,” he told Reuters. “It looks like some (Kyrgyz) politicians have vested interests in this.”

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, arguably one of the world’s most prestigious honors, will be announced on October 7.

Kazakh officials could not immediately reached for comment on the decision by Kyrgyz lawmakers.

Nazarbayev, a 71-year-old former steelworker whose more than 20-year rule has been marked by fast market reforms, rapid economic growth and an intolerance toward dissent, is not the first post-Soviet leader Kyrgyzstan has tried to woo.

In a move widely seen as an attempt to please former imperial master Russia, Kyrgyzstan voted in February this year to immortalize Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by naming a Tien Shan mountain in his honor.

Between 500,000 and 800,000 Kyrgyz citizens are estimated to be working in Russia, sending cash back home and helping the rickety economy stay afloat.

Putin Peak in the Chuy region, which is 4,446 meters (14,587 feet) high, is substantially higher than Yeltsin Peak in the nearby Issyk Kul region, which was named after the former Russian leader in 2002, five years before his death.

Reporting By Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov, editing by Paul Casciato

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