KYRGYZ OPPOSITION RALLY LOOMS  Failure of government and opposition to hold 
crisis talks may lead to civil unrest.  By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek

TAJIK ELECTION CAMPAIGN FALLS FLAT  Behind the scenes there is talk of plots to 
split the opposition and curb the media, but on the surface the campaign is 
muted.  By IWPR staff in Dushanbe


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Failure of government and opposition to hold crisis talks may lead to civil 

By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek

Political unrest in Kyrgyzstan is looming following the failure of the 
authorities and the opposition to hold talks over the latter's demands for 
root-and-branch reforms.

The opposition is threatening to hold a mass rally on November 2 to demand the 
resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Prime Minister Felix Kulov who 
they claim are plunging the country into a political crisis.

The authorities and the opposition blame each other for the cancellation of 
October 21 talks aimed at resolving their differences. 

The opposition is demanding rapid constitutional reform, a new coalition 
government, transformation of the state broadcaster into a public television 
service, and the resignations of the Kyrgyz prosecutor general and the Bishkek 
police chief.

There's still hope of another meeting being arranged in the next few days, but 
some in the main opposition grouping Movement for Reforms say they've lost 
patience with the country's leadership.

The opposition says the October 21 meeting was to have taken place between 14 
of its members - including human rights advocates, leaders of NGOs and the 
other civil society groups - and Bakiev, Kulov, the head of the presidential 
administration and the secretary of state.

Opposition parliamentary deputy Melis Eshimkanov claims that half an hour 
before the talks were due to start, the president decided to invite another 15 
politicians, provoking the Movement for Reform boycott.

"We realised that the president wanted to turn the talks into a debate, and to 
act as an observer. The meeting would have turned into a pointless discussion, 
and our demands would have remained just empty words," he said.

For their parts, the authorities are claiming that the opposition have acted in 
bad faith. A statement from the presidential press service said that the 
Movement for Reform had objected to the government team including one 
additional representative, Supreme Court head Kurmanbek Osmonov. But when 
officials agreed to stick to their original line-up for the talks, the 
opposition was no longer prepared to meet, said the statement. 

Officials have lambasted the opposition for telling the media that they are not 
interested in dialogue, insisting that they want to talk while their opponents 
are only interested in ultimatums.

Most members of the Movement for Reform are still prepared to meet officials. 
Its leader, Omurbek Tekebaev, said, "We are prepared for a second round of 
talks. But we must reach an agreement that they will be sincere and productive. 
It is possible to come to a consensus, but a clear and precise position from 
the head of state is required for this."

However, a number of prominent opposition representatives, including 
parliamentary deputies Azimbek Beknazarov and Almazbek Atambaev, appear to have 
lost patience with the government and seem determined to press ahead with the 
planned demonstration.

Beknazarov suggests that Bakiev is more interested in trying to co-opt members 
of the opposition than having meaningful discussions with them. 

"Instead of listening to our demands, the authorities send various officials to 
us, and promise high government position. Then the president makes a puzzled 
face and says that he did not give anyone the authority to conduct such talks," 
he said.

He warned that "if there are no talks before November 2, then dialogue with the 
Kyrgyzstan authorities will take place on the square".

Atambaev was more scathing of Bakiev and the recent aborted talks. "I knew that 
the meeting would turn into a farce. I don't think that you should go to talks 
with a 'political corpse' - a man who is the head of the country and deceives 
his people. Unfortunately, in place of [former president Askar] Akaev an even 
more terrible man has come to power," he told IWPR 

Amid growing speculation that the threatened opposition protest could escalate 
into a coup attempt or possible civil conflict, both politicians have been keen 
to stress that any rally would be peaceful.

"We know there are people who want to cause riots - but there will not be any 
riots," said Beknazarov. And Atambaev insisted there were no plans to seize 
government offices, "We will set up tents in the square and stay there until 
[Bakiev] resigns."

Political commentators are not surprised by the failure of the opposition and 
the authorities to sit down and talk, because they say the two sides are so at 
odds with each other. They now suspect that matters will only get worse, 
possibly culminating in a violent confrontation. 

"The fact that the talks did not take place could be expected, as the positions 
of the two sides are too diametrically opposed," said analyst Nur Omarov. " So 
the conflict will probably deepen. As for November 2, there is a high 
likelihood of clashes between the protesting opposition and supporters of the 
authorities. But in this situation, everything depends on the authorities, and 
how they react to the demands put forward by the opposition." 

On October 27, President Bakiev attended a roundtable meeting on constitutional 
reform. Some members of the Movement for Reform were also there, but senior 
politicians from the grouping such as Beknazarov and Atambaev refused to 
attend, telling the media they did not want the event to be depicted as some 
kind of formal negotiation between the government and its opponents.

Taalaibek Amanov is a regular IWPR contributor.


Behind the scenes there is talk of plots to split the opposition and curb the 
media, but on the surface the campaign is muted.

By IWPR staff in Dushanbe

The prevailing mood of the campaigning for the Tajik presidential election is 
downbeat, but this is deceptive - the superficial calm conceals intrigue and 
high emotions in the world of politics. However, none of this really matters to 
the average voter, who already knows what the result will be.

No one is in any doubt who will win on November 6. None of the four contenders 
standing against the incumbent Imomali Rahmonov has the political weight to 
offer a serious challenge, while the major opposition parties cannot or will 
not field candidates. 

The other candidates have avoided confrontation with Rahmonov and instead of 
seeking national media coverage to promote themselves, they are spending their 
time touring the length and breadth of country. While it is a departure for 
Tajik election candidates to make such an effort to meet voters in remote 
areas, the impact of their individual campaigns may be reduced by the fact that 
they are all traveling together on the same tour bus. 

The candidates are not expected to make use of the free airtime granted to them 
until just five days before the election, and none of their campaign speeches 
is expected to be inspiring. Meanwhile, the state media have been giving 
extensive coverage to the president's daily official activities and carrying 
reports highlighting his administration's achievements.

If the election campaigning is unexciting, there is plenty going on under the 
surface. The haste with which the Central Electoral Commission approved the 
candidate nominations raised some eyebrows, since there was some doubt that any 
of them - apart from Communist Party leader Ismail Talbakov - could really have 
gathered the 160,000 signatures required. 

Two others, Amir Karakulov of the Agrarian Party and Olimjon Boboev of the 
Economic Reforms Party, are little-known academics rather than politicians, and 
belong to parties set up only last year. Some observers believe their presence 
on the candidate list was deliberately engineered to create the appearance of 

Then there is Abduhalim Gafforov of the Socialist Party - or rather, part of 
the Socialist Party. Again, the schism in the party and Gafforov's emergence as 
a candidate have been seen as an attempt to weaken the opposition. Mirhusein 
Narziev, who still leads the original and much larger Socialist Party faction, 
was also planning to stand in the presidential ballot but was not allowed to 
enter his name, as the justice ministry does not recognise his party as legal.

Another hopeful, Tabarali Ziyoev, was also the product of a party split. The 
Democratic Party, whose leader Mahmudruzi Iskandarov is serving a long prison 
term, is boycotting the election because it believes it will be neither free 
nor fair. But in late September the government suddenly decided that 
Iskandarov's people were not the real Democratic Party after all, and instead 
recognised an offshoot that emerged earlier this year called Vatan. 

Ziyoev was Vatan's chosen candidate, and like Gafforov, could have been 
expected to win official approval. But the election commission rejected him, 
presumably because he did not even come close to getting the requisite number 
of signatures.

A bizarre consequence of the schism within the Democrats is that both factions 
now produce their own weekly newspapers, each called Adolat (Justice) and each 
claiming to be the genuine article.

Finally, the Islamic Rebirth Party has simply opted out of this election, even 
though it is the most important of the true opposition parties. It is not even 
boycotting the vote, like Iskandarov's Democrats or the smaller Social 
Democratic Party, but simply standing aside because of concerns about electoral 
legislation. Its leader Muhiddin Kabiri has also made it clear the party does 
not want to risk exposing itself to accusations that it is pursuing an 
anti-democratic Islamic agenda. 

As a result of all this, the opposition will not figure at all in the rest of 
the campaign or on election day. 

"The opposition has lost this election," said political scientist Rustam 
Haidarov told IWPR. "They have been too involved in internal restructuring of 
their parties and in internecine strife and schism." 

With the election already in the bag, Rahmonov's government might have been 
expected to take a fairly relaxed attitude to any criticism it faced in the 
run-up to the vote. However, it apparently decided that it was better to be 
safe than sorry. A month before the ballot, the authorities blocked access to a 
number of internet sites, arguing that they were detrimental to national 

The communications ministry's regulatory body instructed all domestic internet 
providers to block the access to five websites, three of which - 
www.charogiruz.ru, www.arianastorm.com and www.tajikistantimes.ru - carry 
opposition material critical of the authorities, while two others, 
www.ferghana.ru and www.centrasia.ru, report news from across Central Asia.

The regulatory agency argued that the offending websites worked to "subvert 
government policy on information" and posed a security threat. 

Apart from the state-run internet provider, there are another 12 commercial 
provider firms, which were given ten days to carry out the order.  

Mahmud Saraev, an official in Rahmonov's administrative office, argued that the 
authorities were within their rights to restrict access to these sites, all of 
which are based abroad. "They are deliberately seeking to distort the facts at 
this [election] time," he told IWPR. "They fling mud at the government and fill 
their sites with libellous material."

Dodojon Atavulloev, the exiled journalist behind both Tajikistan Times and 
Charogi Ruz, complained, "In the run-up to the election, the authorities don't 
want the people of Tajikistan to know what's going on in their own country." 

Domestic and international media rights groups said the government's decision 
was a breach of free speech and civil liberties. 

"No one has the right to make a judgement about whether material undermines the 
state. Only the courts can do that," said Nuriddin Karshibaev who heads the 
National Association of Independent Media. "The government official behind this 
move meant to do the president and government a service, but it backfired."

Private internet providers complied with the order well before the ten-day 
deadline was up. But the order appears to have been quietly dropped, and the 
"banned" websites are now available in Tajikistan again.

Meanwhile, the streets of the capital Dushanbe are filling up with election 
posters even if the candidates themselves - Rahmonov apart - are all but 

However, few of the potential voters are reading the flyers, and they seem 
distinctly uninterested in the contest.

"I'll pop in and vote, but I know it will be pointless," said resident Nadira 
Davlatova. "Election or not, it's clear who the president will be." 

If voters express any preference, it is often for Rahmonov, who is credited 
with maintaining the peace since the end of a bloody civil war ended in 1997. 
His is also the only familiar face. 

"I'm going to vote for Rahmonov," said a casual labourer at a city market. "I 
don't know the others. I don't have the time to read about their programmes - 
I've got to earn a living. I won't be watching [TV political broadcasts] 
either. Why bother?"

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