NEW TAJIK PARTY SEEKS ÉMIGRÉ VOTE  Opposition figure is promising a “violet 
revolution”, but no one seems convinced.  By Nafisa Pisaredzheva in Dushanbe

party stand to gain most from the proposed amendments.  By Abdujalil 
Abdurasulov in Almaty


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Opposition figure is promising a “violet revolution”, but no one seems 

By Nafisa Pisaredzheva in Dushanbe

A new Tajik political movement based in Moscow has threatened to stage a 
Kyrgyz-style revolution if President Imomali Rahmonov does not step down. 
Analysts and experts interviewed by IWPR say that in reality, the émigré group 
poses little risk to the Tajik administration since it will find it hard to 
make any inroads on the domestic political scene. 

Called Vatandor (Patriot), the party was founded by journalist Dodojon 
Atovulloev, a harsh critic of the government who was forced to flee from 
Tajikistan to Russia in the early Nineties. Since then he has been chief editor 
of the newspaper Charogi Ruz, a newspaper which is published abroad but 
smuggled clandestinely into Tajikistan, and which regularly attacks the 
Rahmonov government.

According to Atovulloev, Vatandor includes a number of well-known figures 
including at least one former prime minister of Tajikistan and several 
ex-members of parliament, and came into being after two years of work and a 
series of meetings in foreign capitals. 

The party says it will bring hundreds of thousands of people out onto the 
streets of Tajik cities and lead a “violet revolution” – the term a conscious 
reference to regime changes in other former Soviet republics such as the “rose 
revolution” in Georgia and nearer home, Kyrgyzstan’s “tulip revolution” which 
ousted President Askar Akaev in March 2005. 

Vatandor is promising that President Rahmonov will be guaranteed immunity if he 
agrees to step down voluntarily. But the prospect of this happening seems 
remote, since the party is highly unlikely to be allowed to organise and meet 
publicly in Tajikistan. 

The movement hopes to capitalise on its location abroad by recruiting support 
among Tajik migrants working in Russia and elsewhere.

Government figures suggest there are around 450,000 Tajik citizens working 
outside the country, 80 per cent of them under 40. Many analysts believe the 
true figure is considerably higher, while Atovulloev puts the total nearer 1.5 
million. A recent World Bank study indicated that the money these migrants send 
home contributes more than 10 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Yet when IWPR interviewed Tajik migrants in Russia, few knew anything about the 
new party, or expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a revolution.

“We haven’t heard of this party,” said one man, Sorbon Niazov. “We don’t need 
rallies, reforms or new parties. It’s hard for us to find work in our country 
with the current regime, but if there’s a new one, what’s the guarantee that 
life will get any better? We’ve only just recovered from the [1992-97 civil] 
war, and our families need to live peacefully in their homeland without any 

Bakhtier, a 25-year-old who works in a Moscow firm making headstones, said he 
was not interested in learning more about Vatandor.

“I don’t believe that Tajik movements or parties set up in Russia have any 
prospect of winning support among labour migrants,” he said. “I don’t think 
that they should construct their plans to win power on our bones, or using us 
as cover. We have a hard enough time already.”

Back in Tajikistan, Khurshedi Atovullo, chief editor of the Faraj newspaper, 
recalled that opposition groups have toyed with the idea of creating a labour 
migrant party for some time. 

“We have written several articles about the need to set up a party of labour 
migrants, as other forces could make of use them,” he said. “Now this 
opportunity has been grasped by Atovulloev.”

Political analyst Khodi Abdujabbor doubts Tajikistan is ready for a popular 
revolution along the lines of those seen in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. 
“The conditions for revolution or domestic political change aren’t there,” he 
told IWPR.

Another analyst, Parviz Mullojonov, agreed that revolution is unlikely in the 
immediate future, although he added that underlying problems such as poverty 
meant political stability was at risk. “Unless social and economic problems are 
solved in the near future, for the next five or six years there will still be a 
risk of a popular revolt and the emergence of revolutionary situations,” he 

However, Mullojonov doubts Atovulloev is the right man to lead anti-government 
protests. “The statements that Atovulloev, the eternal oppositionist, make 
amount to no more than self-promotion,” he said. “He won’t win much support 
inside the country.”

Rahmonov’s governing People’s Democratic Party was also dismissive of the new 
opposition force, with party chief-of-staff Muso Asozoda describing it as “more 
bluff from Atovulloev”.

Muhiddin Kabiri, who heads the Islamic Revival Party, the major opposition 
party in Tajikistan, was sceptical about Vatandor’s chances.

“I don’t think a party or movement created and located abroad is likely to have 
much influence inside Tajikistan,” he told IWPR. “Even those parties that 
function legally in the country find it difficult to influence the domestic 
political process.”

Kabiri also ruled out the possibility of a revolution, saying, “There were 
major political figures behind the revolutions in Georgia or in Ukraine. In the 
case of Atovulloev, we haven’t seen this happening yet. He alone speaks on 
behalf of Vatandor, and we are not seeing any other names.”

The deputy head of the smaller Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Shokirjon 
Hakimov, offered a more encouraging view. In an interview with IWPR, he said 
groups like Vatandor were forced to form outside the country because political 
parties in Tajikistan were subject to many restrictions.

Hakimov said Atovulloev’s group could yet tap into a vein of discontent in 
Tajikistan as well as among the migrants. “There are factors that point to 
social upheaval – the low standard of living [in Tajikistan], recent [more 
restrictive] changes to the law on labour migrants in Russia, regional 
favouritism in the Tajik government, and the sense of alienation from political 
life,” he said.

Nafisa Pisaredzheva is an IWPR contributor in Dushanbe.


The president and his party stand to gain most from the proposed amendments.

By Abdujalil Abdurasulov in Almaty

Proposed constitutional changes hailed by the Kazak leadership as democratic 
reforms are actually aimed at ensuring President Nursultan Nazarbaev holds on 
to power even after he leaves office, say analysts interviewed by IWPR.

On the surface, the amendments suggested by Nazarbaev appear to advance 
political reforms in the country, one stipulation imposed by the OSCE if 
Kazakstan is to achieve its goal of chairing the organisation in 2009.

But rather than relax restrictive laws on formation of political parties and 
freedom of assembly, critics say that Nazarbaev has opted for changes that 
would strengthen his own Nur Otan party, and thereby consolidate his own 

He wants to increase to 50 per cent the proportion of parliamentary seats 
elected by proportional representation using party lists. Currently, 67 of the 
77 members of parliament are elected in first-past-the-post constituencies.

Under the new system, the majority party would have the right to pick a 
government – a shift from the current arrangement where the president appoints 
the prime minister, and then both decide on the cabinet together.

Nazarbaev is also suggesting that parliament should have control over the 
government budget, and nominate members to the Constitutional Council and the 
Central Electoral Commission.

The president has described the changes – which are now being examined by a 
working group with a view to finalising the amendments before they are put to 
the vote – as a reflection of “strategic priorities in the current phase of 
political modernisation”.

His critics are unconvinced, pointing out that the amendments are unlikely to 
create more democracy.

Political scientist Sergey Duvanov says Nur Otan – the largest and strongest 
party – will be the only one to benefit from a greater allocation of seats in 
parliament. As Otan, the party won 60 per cent of the vote in the last 
parliamentary election, and is now even stronger after it absorbed three 
smaller pro-Nazarbaev parties – Asar, the Agrarians and the Civic Party – 
changing its name in the process.

Andrey Chebotarev, director of the Alternative research centre, is certain that 
Nazarbaev’s plan is designed to strengthen Nur Otan.

He says the new constitutional arrangements would facilitate a Kazakstan 
version of regime change – allowing Nazarbaev to move a new position when he 
leaves office in 2013, and to enjoy most, if not all the influence he had as 

“When the president’s term is over, such a mixed parliamentary-presidential 
system could come in very handy. The president could either be speaker of 
parliament or head of the dominant party. And so he would continue to rule the 

He explained Nazarbaev’s apparent reluctance to step away from politics 
altogether, saying, “Given our political culture, every leader expects to be 
persecuted by his successor. It’s a legacy of the Soviet period.” 

Erkin Tykunov from the Central Asian Foundation for Democratic Development 
argues that the proposals are in fact a response to the OSCE’s concerns about 
whether Kazakstan is ready to take over the chairmanship of the regional 
grouping in 2009.

OSCE foreign ministers last year postponed the decision on Kazakstan’s bid, 
questioning its democratic credentials and pointing out that political reforms 
launched in 1991 are still incomplete. They plan to review the decision when 
they next meet in December. 

“The reason for initiating this campaign to amend the constitution is the 
December OSCE summit in Madrid,” said Tykunov.

Whatever happens, Nazarbaev has made clear that he has no plans to give up too 
many of his presidential powers just yet. In a February 19 speech, he said the 
presidential system will be upheld, and the constitutional changes should not 
make the institution of the presidency any weaker. 

Igor Rogov, the Constitutional Council chairman who has been appointed as the 
deputy head of the working group looking at the proposed changes, believes 
retaining the presidential system while simultaneously maximising the powers of 
parliament will speed up democratisation in Kazakstan. 

Duvanov remains sceptical that the two concepts can sit side by side. 

“The president has stated explicitly that the strong presidential system will 
remain,” he said. “If you ask who rules the state, how that happens, and which 
direction it takes, you arrive at the same person as before. Nothing will 

The working group is due to report in three or four months, after which the 
changes will be put to a vote – either in parliament or in a nationwide 

Abdujalil Abdurasulov is an independent journalist based in Almaty.

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