Kyrgyz MPs Exorcise Demons by Slaughtering Sheep

By Erica Marat

Tired of continuous showdowns that threaten to disintegrate the ruling coalition, Kyrgyz MPs decided to sacrifice seven sheep in front of the parliament building. According to local traditions, offering the blood of a slaughtered sheep expels devils that a human being is not able to oust just by virtue of his or her own effort.

Although blood offering is a common feature of most Kyrgyz politicians’ campaigns in rural areas, this is the first time the ritual has been performed in central Bishkek. Each of the 120 MPs contributed 700 soms (roughly $18) toward the ritual. Slaughtered meat was served to the people working in the parliament and shared with the elderly and disabled.

In an attempt to boost their own popularity, Kyrgyz MPs have resorted to symbolic politics, trying to justify their own dysfunction. In a recent brawl, ruling coalition members engaged in a fistfight, smashing each other’s faces and further threatening the coalition’s collapse.

Other attempts to boost individual popularity include the compilation of an extended list (over 1,160) of heroes of the April 7, 2010 regime change. The list is long because every parliamentary faction suggested its own heroes. The list embraces about 10 percent of the roughly 10,000 demonstrators on that day.

Furthermore, MPs also voted to impose restrictions on the use of state symbolism. For instance, anyone wearing a hat while performing a national hymn will be charged for misconduct. Also, the state emblem and flag cannot be used on personal business cards.

The parliament’s use of rituals exposes its attempt to deal with the increased transparency of parliamentary work. Most parliamentary sessions are broadcast live, while local media outlets have a good overview of the ruling coalition’s work.

The politics of symbolism might indeed increase the parliament’s short-term popularity among some segments of society. To most international media, however, the Kyrgyz MPs’ lamb slaughter was a source of comical headlines.