dailypeghamDUSHANBE: 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.

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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.

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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.