ASTANA (Reuters) - A photograph of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in tight swimming trunks triggered outrage in the parliament of the former Soviet state on Wednesday.
“For me, he (Nazarbayev) is a God-appointed person,” said Bekbolat Tleukhan, member of the pro-Nazarbayev Nur-Otan party that controls every seat in the lower house.
“This is not just impolite, it’s pure shame. ... It goes against all our traditions.”
In the paparazzi-style shot, published by the Freedom of Speech newspaper this month, the 67-year-old president is walking on a beach, looking tanned and smiling.
Last month photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin, bare-chested while fishing, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, paddling a canoe in his swimming trunks, attracted media attention worldwide.
Nazarbayev, in power since 1989 in his mainly Muslim Central Asian state, has never commented on a photo which has been in circulation for years, mainly on opposition Web sites.
Tleukhan called on law enforcement officials to take action against the newspaper. Its editor-in-chief said the case could provide an excuse for officials to crack down on a handful of opposition media operating in a state where publicly criticising Nazarbayev is largely taboo.
“Tleukhan is trying to stifle press freedom using the president’s Speedos,” editor-in-chief Gulzhan Yergaliyeva said.