NPR

Kazakhstan Celebrates First, And Only, President

On Dec. 1, Kazakhstan celebrated a new holiday: "First President's Day." The central Asian country feted its long-time leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, though outside observers have criticized what appears to be a growing cult of personality around the president in the oil-rich country.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY KAZAKHSTAN")

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Chances are you can't quite place this song. Or really, you've probably never heard it. This is "My Kazakhstan" and it's the national anthem of that Central Asian country. And it features lyrics re-written by the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Yesterday, the people of Kazakhstan celebrated their longtime leader with a new holiday they called First President's Day, and it marks the anniversary of the president's first election in 1991. That was just after Kazakhstan left the Soviet Union.

Observers say the oil-rich country is democracy-poor. Nazarbayev won his last election with 95 percent of the vote. The president has also developed what looks like a cult of personality in the former communist country. He has a university named after him. Films and fairytales laud his presidency. And Nazarbayev already has a national holiday every year on his birthday.

Yesterday, on First President's Day, demonstrations broke out around the country in support of the president. But to quote a report in the Associated Press, "To what extent the participation was voluntary was unclear." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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