ASTANA Kazakhstan’s parliament called on Wednesday for the capital city to be renamed after President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a week ahead of a national holiday dedicated to the 76-year-old leader who has the power to accept or reject the proposal.
The unanimous vote in favour of renaming Astana adds to the growing personality cult around Nazarbayev who has run the Central Asian country since 1989.
Last week, Kazakhstan’s central bank said the portrait of the former steelworker and Communist apparatchik would appear on a bank note for the first time, which enters circulation on Dec. 1, the officially celebrated Day of the First President.
Astana simply means “capital” in Kazakh and was given to the city in 1998 shortly after the government relocated there from Almaty, the country’s biggest city and commercial hub.
Lower house deputy Kuanysh Sultanov, who read out the proposal in parliament, said he expected Nazarbaev to respond within weeks.
Nazarbayev has rejected similar proposals in the past but appears in the last few years to be more favourable to such moves. Several monuments featuring him have been erected and a prestigious university and network of schools have been named after him.
(Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)