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Kyrgyzstan backs new flag, says ‘smiling’ sun to aid growth

Bishkek (AFP) – Lawmakers in tightly-controlled Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday backed a proposal to modify the country’s flag so that it will feature sun rays, arguing the move would boost the economy. 

The poor, landlocked republic of 6.7 million people in Central Asia has been dogged by political volatility for much of the three decades since it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Kyrgyzstan’s flag, adopted in 1992 after the Soviet collapse, currently features a yellow orb – representing a traditional nomadic yurt – against a red background, surrounded by lines emanating from the centre.

In November, parliament speaker Nurlanbek Shakiev put forward a bill to change the emblem in order to make those lines “clearly reminiscent of sun rays”.

Supporters of the change, including President Sadyr Japarov, argued that the current design too closely resembled a sunflower, and that this had kept Kyrgyzstan from fulfilling its potential as a “developed and independent” state.

“There was a public opinion that our flag resembled a sunflower, and in this context the country could not get up from its knees,” Japarov said in October.

“There were even cases of foreigners coming to visit us, saying that probably sunflowers grew in large quantities in our republic,” he added.

“From now on it will be as if the sun is shining and smiling at us,” he said in October, speaking in favour of the changes.

Fifty-nine lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday approved the alterations with only five voting against.

Japarov has been in power since 2021, when he was sprung free from prison by supporters and quickly moved to consolidate power.

Dozens of people opposed the change to the flag and demonstrated against the move in the capital Bishkek earlier this month.

Kyrgyzstan has vast natural resources but, like several Central Asian nations, many of its citizens depend on remittances from migrants working abroad.

The World Bank said Kyrgyzstan needs to implement reforms on “private sector development and job creation, spur international trade, and encourage fiscally sustainable energy production” to achieve strong economic growth.

Demonstrators protest against the changing of the Kyrgyz national flag in Kyrgyzstan. PHOTO: AFP