WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 470, 7 November, 2006
TAJIK PRESIDENT WINS EXPECTED LANDSLIDE With few alternatives on offer, most
voters went for the obvious candidate - the current president. By IWPR staff
KYRGYZSTAN: NO OLIVE BRANCH FROM PRESIDENT Parliament was promised more rights
in a radical new constitution, so it was angered by the conservative document
it received. By Cholpon Orozobekova in Bishkek
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TAJIK PRESIDENT WINS EXPECTED LANDSLIDE
With few alternatives on offer, most voters went for the obvious candidate -
the current president.
By IWPR staff in Dushanbe
The final result announced in Tajikistan's presidential election reflected the
findings of an IWPR straw poll predicting a clear win for incumbent Imomali
Rahmonov won 79.3 per cent of the vote, totally dominating the November 6
election, according to data released by Central Electoral Commission chief
Mirzoali Boltuev the following day.
His nearest rival was Olimjon Boboev, who got just 6.2 per cent. Boboev, a
relative unknown from the Economic Reforms Party, followed by Amir Karakulov of
the Agrarian Party with 5.3 per cent, at least did better than Ismail Talbakov
of the well-established Communist Party, who scored 5.1 per cent. Last was
Abduhalim Gafforov with just 2.8 per cent, nominated by one of two factions in
the Socialist Party.
An unscientific survey of voting patterns which IWPR conducted on the day of
the election in various parts of the country showed that the majority favoured
Rahmonov rather than any of his rivals.
The southern Hatlon region is Rahmonov's heartland, and many voters there
predictably said they would choose him.
Of the other contenders, only Communist Party leader Ismail Talbakov has any
kind of constituency. But party member Saifiddin Sharipov said he would be
voting for Rahmonov instead, as he deserved another term in office. Like many
Tajiks, Sharipov credits the president with bringing an end to five years of
civil war in 1997.
"Although I'm a member of the Communist Party, I am voting for Rahmonov,
because he has given the people peace, and thanks to him construction has begun
on several large hydroelectric stations," said Sharipov.
Another Communist in the south, Abdullo Mahmadaliev, said he too preferred
Rahmonov's campaign platform over the others, although he declined to say who
he would be voting for.
Hatlon also has a significant presence of the Islamic Revival Party, IRP, the
country's major opposition party which decided not to field a candidate in this
election, although it did not formally boycott it as the Democrats and Social
Party activist Sadriddin Halimov told IWPR that in the absence of an IRP
contender, he would be giving Rahmonov his vote. "The fact that Rahmonov is a
worthy candidate is acknowledged not just in Tajikistan, but abroad as well,"
Azimjob Vahobov, the IRP's deputy head in Hatlon province, said it would be
wrong to comment on his own voting choices, but said the re-elected president
would have a lot of work still to do, including tackling systemic corruption
and the fact that hundreds of thousands of Tajiks have to work abroad as
The November 6 election fell on a public holiday marking Constitution Day, and
local authorities did their best to make the election a festive affair, with
music and food laid on at polling stations in the Hatlon city of Kurghon-Tepa
In the north of Tajikistan, too, the election day mood was upbeat. In the
administrative centre Khujand, music blared out and kebabs sizzled on roadside
barbecues, and women hurrying to vote tried to rein in children who were making
tracks for street stalls piled with sweets.
A continuous supply of natural gas, a rare commodity normally rationed from
five to seven in the evening, was switched on in people's homes the day before
Here too, the vast majority of voters appeared to be opting for Rahmonov,
either because they felt he had improved their lives, or because they felt he
was the only known quantity on the list of candidates.
"Under his rule, the country gained its independence, people's standard of
living has improved, and major investors have started coming in," said Mansur
Mirmullaev, a teacher at a private school in Khujand.
Mirmullaev has over 40 years' work behind him, so his perspective is different
from that of Jamshed, a young man who scrapes by doing casual labour. But
Jamshed too said he voted for Rahmonov, explaining, "I don't want any changes;
everything should stay the same. Things are going well for me now. I don't want
anything to interfere with that."
One 30-year-old man in the city, who did not want to be named, said he voted
for the Communist Talbakov in the hope it would bring some fresh blood into the
"Rahmonov has done a lot for the country, but many unresolved problems still
remain: relations with neighbouring countries are tense; corruption and drug
crime are flourishing, and something needs to be done about this," said the
voter. "If someone new with a good understanding of politics and economics
comes to power, then he will be able to change some things."
In the capital Dushanbe, responses from voters were similar.
"Is it any secret who I voted for?" asked resident Fathullo Abdulloev: "Of
course one old friend is better than two new ones. Imomali Rahmonov has proved
himself a patriot in many ways."
Another interviewee, Daler Kurbonov, asked, "How can I vote for the other
candidates when I don't know anything about them?"
Turnout was relatively low in the capital, and IWPR reporters found many
polling stations nearly deserted by midday, with domestic election monitors
standing outside and smoking because there was nothing going on.
Foreign election monitors have yet to give their verdict on whether the verdict
was free and fair. IWPR reporters noticed a number of worrying incidents,
although it is hard to assess how widespread they were or what impact they
might have had on the outcome.
For this election, colourful posters were designed that urged people not to try
to vote on behalf of other family members, and training was provided for
election staff to prevent such illegal practices. But as one IWPR contributor
went to vote, an election official was asking lone voters why they had not
brought their relatives' voting papers along so they could cast a ballot for
Election staff were also seen helping confused voters by crossing off all the
names except Rahmonov's.
At Dushanbe's teacher training university, lecturers shepherded students to the
polls, with one group being herded in as the previous one left. One student who
spoke on condition of anonymity said they were under instructions from college
staff to vote for the president.
KYRGYZSTAN: NO OLIVE BRANCH FROM PRESIDENT
Parliament was promised more rights in a radical new constitution, so it was
angered by the conservative document it received.
By Cholpon Orozobekova in Bishkek
If President Kurmanbek Bakiev planned to outsmart the opposition by presenting
a less radical constitution than the one to which he agreed, he has
miscalculated. His proposal has angered parliament as well as the opposition,
whose rally is beginning to gain strength after a quiet weekend.
Following last-minute talks on October 31, Bakiev agreed to send a draft of
changes to the constitution to parliament on November 2, but he delayed doing
so, and a big opposition rally went ahead the same day.
As the protests entered their fifth day on November 6, the promised document at
last arrived before legislators, although it was presented not by Bakiev in
person, but by his official representative Alymbay Sultanov.
Parliament was in any case unable to formally debate the document because
opposition members stayed away, leaving the session without a quorum.
"Twenty-eight [of the 75] members agreed they would not attend the session. We
need to find out what kind of document is being submitted; what kind of
governing system the president has gone for," said Melis Eshimkanov, one of the
Details of the proposed constitution are still unclear. A number of different
drafts have been put forward by various political forces since the
constitutional reform process was launched last year. The reform ground to a
halt in late 2005 and re-starting it is a central demand made by the opposition
Movement for Reforms.
Reports from Bakiev's October 31 meeting with his opponents suggested that he
agreed to opposition demands for a parliamentary rather than a presidential
system. He was also said to have given his assent to a stronger parliament
consisting of 105 members, 70 of them chosen by proportional representation.
The legislature's 75 members are all elected by the first-past-the-post system.
Speaking at a November 5 press conference, Roza Otunbaeva of the Movement for
Reforms, which is organising the protests, warned Bakiev not to shift the
goalposts, "If the president comes up with the idea of leaving a presidential
system in place, it will be a fatal decision. Bakiev will then need to decide
which country he's going to flee to."
But by November 6 the situation seemed to have changed. Instead of an all-new
constitution, the document placed before parliament consisted of a set of
amendments to the existing law.
State Secretary Adakhan Madumarov announced that Bakiev was proposing a
"presidential-parliamentary system". What this meant, he explained, was that
parliament would nominate a prime minister for appointment by the president.
The head of state would also appoint cabinet members and regional governors,
based on recommendations from the president.
Plans to make parliament bigger have been scrapped, but proportional
representation has been introduced for 50 of the 75 seats.
Madumarov insisted that these proposals reflected the October 31 meeting,
concluding, "I can't say the powers of the president have been substantial
reduced - but the [various] branches of authority have been made mutually
The state secretary made it clear that the deputies could take Bakiev's draft
or leave it, indicating that either this set of amendments could be passed by
legislators or that the document would be put to a national referendum.
Both parliament and politicians attending the rally in the square outside were
plainly furious with what Bakiev had come up with.
Azimbek Beknazarov, an opposition member who did turn up for the parliamentary
session, accused the president of reneging on his promise, "Bakiev promised to
submit an all-new constitution, but he's refusing to abandon [former president
Askar] Akaev's constitution.... Now he wants to leave that one in place by
means of a referendum. The situation is complex enough as things are, but the
president wants to make things worse and ultimately to dissolve parliament."
His colleague Kubatbek Baibolov agreed, saying that the constitutional changes
were entirely retrograde. "I have been studying this draft since this morning.
It's scandalous! The president takes away some of parliament's powers, and he
also plans to appoint local government heads without consulting local
councils," he said.
Tursunbek Akun, not a member of parliament but the head of Bakiev's human
rights watchdog, was equally critical. "This draft is anti-democratic. It
amounts to the president usurping power," said Akun. "He needs to withdraw it
immediately - it's a lot worse than the existing constitution. He needs to
acknowledge that the opposition is right to demand constitutional reform. The
authorities are not taking the right steps to restore stability."
The speaker of parliament, Marat Sultanov, attempted to cool passions by
reminding his colleagues that "we still have the right to choose. If this
version doesn't suit us, the law says that 38 deputies can table their own
Despite the lack of a quorum, parliament set up a special commission headed by
Sultanov to produce a constitutional draft that would incorporate wider views
than those reflected in the Bakiev document.
Meanwhile, the opposition rally in the square outside began to pick up after a
lull over the weekend. By the afternoon of November 6, the crowd had grown from
5,000 to around 15,000 - the opposition claimed 100,000. Similar rallies were
reported to be building strength in the town of Talas and in several smaller
urban centres of the Chuy region.
On the evening of November 6, Bakiev received leading opposition politician
Almaz Atambaev, who handed over a seven-point list of demands - the chief of
which was, he said, that the president should produce "the new constitution as
agreed with the opposition".
Bakiev appeared ready compromise, though not on the constitution. He appointed
Omurbek Suvanaliev as interior minister, who promptly sacked the chief of
police in Bishkek, Moldomusa Kongantiev, whose removal featured on the
opposition's list of demands. The president also promised to give opposition
members airtime on the state television channel, but they turned this down
because the format on offer was limited to live debates live with pro-Bakiev
On November 3, the second day of protests, it had appeared that the government
had seized the initiative by producing evidence that it said showed the
opposition was planning to mount a coup. But developments on November 6 tilted
the balance back again, as Bakiev's promise of a compromise constitution came
"The president has seriously disappointed people," commented political analyst
Nur Omarov. "They were expecting real changes. In fact, the president is
retaining all his powers [in the draft constitution]. That displeases not only
the opposition, but many other citizens."
Parliament had decided to meet in three days' time, but 38 of its members
convened an emergency session late on November 6, saying that if they could get
another 13 to come to the meeting they could pass a new constitution, as
favoured by the opposition. About 20 pro-Bakiev deputies were said to be
convening their own meeting elsewhere.
Eshimkanov said that if the change of constitution goes through, the next step
will be to dissolve the government led by Prime Minister Felix Kulov and form a
As crowds of demonstrators expressed support outside the building, deputies
spoke of a historic moment - November 7 is the day traditionally set aside to
celebrate a past revolution, the 1917 Bolshevik takeover in Russia.
Cholpon Orozobekova is a correspondent for Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of
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