WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 515, 13 November, 2007
UZBEK ELECTION COUNTS FOR LITTLE Six candidates, five political parties and
only one possible winner. By IWPR staff in Central Asia
TAJIKISTAN: REPRESSIVE RELIGIOUS LAW IN THE PIPELINE Proposed legislation
would make it harder for smaller faith groups to operate. By Nafisa Pisarejeva
**** IWPR RESOURCES
THE KURT SCHORK MEMORIAL FUND AND THE INSTITUTE FOR WAR & PEACE REPORTING
invite you to an evening to celebrate the best in committed and fearless
reporting at the Frontline Club, London, Wednesday November 14th 2007 at
7.30pm. Hosted by Christine Amanpour of CNN and the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund
Advisory Board. The Award Ceremony to be followed by a special panel
discussion: Getting the real story out: How to access and verify stories from
inside the worlds most problematic and isolated countries?
To reserve your seat or to find out more go to www.iwpr.net/kurtschork.html
CROSS CAUCASUS JOURNALISM NETWORK. IWPR has launched the website of a unique
Caucasus-wide programme, funded by the EU and the Finnish government, forming a
network of more than 50 journalists from across the North and South Caucasus.
They are meeting and collaborating in all parts of the region over the next
three years. www.crosscaucasus.net
SAHAR JOURNALISTS ASSISTANCE FUND: IWPR is establishing a fund, in honour of
Sahar al-Haideri, to support journalist participants in its training and
reporting programmes around the world. The Sahar Journalists Assistance Fund
will be used to support local journalists in cases of exile or disability, or
to assist their families in case of death in service. To find out more or
donate please go to: http://www.iwpr.net/sahar.html
REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA RSS: http://www.iwpr.net/en/rca/rss.xml
TURKMEN RADIO: INSIDE VIEW is an IWPR radio training and broadcast project for
Turkmenistan. View at: http://www.iwpr.net/?p=trk&s=p&o=-&apc_state=henh
RECEIVE FROM IWPR: Readers are urged to subscribe to IWPR's full range of free
electronic publications at:
GIVE TO IWPR: IWPR is wholly dependent upon grants and donations. For more
information about how you can support IWPR go to:
UZBEK ELECTION COUNTS FOR LITTLE
Six candidates, five political parties and only one possible winner.
By IWPR staff in Central Asia
There may be six candidates running for the Uzbek presidency this December, but
there will be few surprises when the incumbent Islam Karimov is elected for his
third term or perhaps his second, depending on how you count his 18 years in
power. Analysts say the other candidates are minor pro-government figures who
are standing merely to create the impression that voters have a choice.
Despite the emergence of rival candidates, President Karimov held off
formalising his candidacy until November 6, when he accepted a unanimous
nomination by a congress of the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, one of several
parties whose creation he has engineered over the years.
In an unprecedented show of numbers, all the other legal, pro-government
parties have also come up with their own candidates. On October 15, the Central
Electoral Commission gave the green light to their nominees, as well as to the
head of a government agency for human rights. The election will take place on
In the last presidential election, held in 2000, there was only one alternative
figure whom voters could have chosen. Abdulhafiz Jalolov won four per cent of
the vote despite backing Karimov and voting for him himself. Karimov won 92 per
cent of the vote, although there was no way of evaluating this figure
What has yet to be made clear is how Karimov can be re-elected at all.
He first took charge of what was then Soviet Uzbekistan in 1989, and was
elected president of the now independent country in 1991. At that point, the
constitution allowed him to serve two five-year terms. However, a referendum in
1995 extended his first term for a further five years, so he only stood for his
second term in 2000. But two years later, the constitution was amended to make
this a seven-year stretch.
That more or less exhausted the constitutional options, even for a leader who
makes up the rules, and when Karimovs term in office ran out in January 2007,
the country entered a kind of constitutional limbo.
The somewhat tortuous solution which has not been stated explicitly by the
authorities appears to be that Karimovs third term in office is actually his
second, on the assumption that he got to start all over again at the 2000
election. That second mandate was converted retrospectively into the first of
two seven-year terms. Hence, he is entitled to another shot at the presidency.
According to Uzbek analyst Komron Aliev, Karimov pays little heed to
constitutional niceties.Over his last 16 years in power [since the 1991
election], Karimov has said what he wanted and done what he wanted. It would be
naïve to expect any changes now, he said. Democracy in Uzbekistan has been
destroyed and the constitution has been changed many times.
Tashkent-based analyst Iskandar Khudoiberdiev added, It is not the first time
that the current leadership has failed to observe laws - even legislation that
it adopted itself. This has been going on since the start of Karimovs rule.
Those who are in in power are above the law. We have no independent courts.
THE OTHER CANDIDATES
To get their candidates registered, parties or public initiative groups are
required to submit 800,000 signatures along with their application to the
Central Electoral Commission, CEC. So far the only candidate not nominated by a
party is also an establishment figure. Akmal Saidov is director of the National
Centre for Human Rights and chairs the parliamentary committee for democratic
institutions. Five individuals three human rights activists, a doctor and an
unemployed academic - announced plans to stand as independents, but have fallen
by the wayside as the CEC failed to register them as candidates.
All five political parties taking part in this election are staunchly
pro-Karimov, which is unsurprising as he engineered their creation one after
another. Over the years they have taken it in turn to be the presidents
favourite, but despite each one proclaiming a new approach when it first
emerged, they are in practice indistinguishable and are largely inactive
In recent years, the process of building parties in this country has been
controlled by Islam Karimov and his administration. Therefore, all the leaders
of the current parties were appointed by the president, said an analyst in
Tashkent, who asked not to be named.
Two opposition parties dating from the early Nineties, Erk and Birlik, operate
only underground and their leaders are in exile. They will not be fielding
candidates; nor will the more recent Ozod Dehkonlar (Free Farmers) Party.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has nominated the leader of its
parliamentary faction, Asliddin Rustamov. The PDP is the oldest of the five,
emerging from the Communist Party to become Karimovs political vehicle in the
early Nineties. It fielded the only alternative candidate in the last
The Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party has nominated parliamentarian
Dilorom Tashmuhammedova the only woman standing while the Milli Tiklanish
(National Revival) Democratic Party offered its candidacy to writer and
parliamentarian Khurshid Dostmuhammad. These two parties were set up in 1995,
perhaps to dilute the PDPs numerical domination of parliament and allow
Karimov to explore different political vehicles.
The presidents next creation was the Fidokorlar (Self-Sacrifiers) National
Democratic Party, set up in 1998. For a time, it was the top party a merger
with another group made it the biggest parliamentary faction in 2000, and it
was Fidokorlar that nominated Karimov when he was re-elected that year. The
party has now selected Akhtam Tursunov, who chairs the parliamentary committee
for defence and security, as its candidate.
Dating from 2003, the LDP is the most recent party to appear. It styles itself
the movement for entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Speaking a year later,
Karimov said the party was needed because the others differ little from one
another. The LDP won a majority in the December 2004/January 2005
parliamentary election, winning 34 per cent of seats. The PDP trailed at 28 per
cent while the other each scored under 20 per cent.
The LDP has underlined its dominant position by forming an alliance with
Fidokorlar and Adolat called the Bloc of Democratic Forces.
is positioning itself as a leading force that unites businessmen and
entrepreneurs under the slogan of, One enterprising, courageous, energetic,
determined, businesslike and vigilant person is better than thousands upon
thousands of idle, apathetic people, said the Tashkent-based analyst.
An LDP official who asked to remain anonymous said the party will mobilise all
its forces and those of the state, too, to ensure a resounding victory for
The LDP candidate will lead in the elections. The party now has all the
resources administrative, power, funding and information. No protest force is
going to overcome this bureaucratic machine consisting of corrupt officials,
security-sector figures and business elites who are, for the moment, putting
their stake on Karimov, said the source.
Another LDP official suggested this exercise in pluralism was a desperate
attempt to improve Uzbekistans tarnished image.
The authorities want to show the West that Uzbek elections are much more
democratic than Kazak ones, so they want all the parties [to take part], he
Although the December 2005 ballot in which Kazakstans Nursultan Nazarbaev was
re-elected was roundly condemned by international monitors, the four candidates
standing against him did at least include some real political opponents.
NOT A HINT OF CONTEST
Analysts in Uzbekistan say none of the candidates is a heavyweight who might
conceivably pose a threat to Karimov.
Even if some of them fall by the wayside, no harm will be done as they are all
much of a muchness, said political analyst Farhad Tolipov.
The candidates efforts to win votes are likely to reflect this, with some
lacklustre campaigning around the country, and no one saying a word against
Nobody is planning to mount a serious fight for the presidency, said a
VOTERS RESIGNED TO THE STATUS QUO
Across Uzbekistan, there appears to be little interest in the December
election. Some voters are prepared to vote for Karimov the only president
they have ever known - on the grounds that he has brought stability.
I know Im voting for Karimov, said one enthusiast in Samarkand, Karimovs
home city in western Uzbekistan. Islam Karimov has stabilised the situation.
There is no war here, and people live peacably. What more do we need?
For people like this voter, a strong ruler is preferable to the kind of regime
change led by popular revolts seen in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan in 2005, and
earlier in Ukraine and Georgia. We see what all these revolutions bring, he
However, many others are resigned to an election that already shows signs of
Outsiders will not be allowed to assume power. We know very well how Karimov
clings to power, said a qualified engineer in the Khorezm region in the
northwest. Muhammad Salih was the last authoritative contender I can think of.
Salih is leader of the unregistered Erk party and has been living in exile
since 1993, when he fled because of mounting harassment. He stood against
Karimov in the first presidential election, held in 1991.
A woman from the city of Navoi, south of Khorezm, said she had heard there were
to be multiple candidates from multiple parties but had not decided whether to
Its all for show. Everybody knows Karimov will win this election even if
people dont vote for him. They will fix the result and he will stay, she said.
In southwest Uzbekistan, a village council worker said, Now theyre saying on
TV that there are many candidates, although I cant remember their names. I
heard Karimov was nominated by some party or other, and that means its all
going to happen all over again.
I remember how the election went seven years ago. There were people from the
mahalla [neighbourhood] committees sitting in the polling stations to ensure we
had Karimovs name on our ballot papers.
One 70-year-old pensioner plans to make a small protest against Karimov by
picking the candidate nominated by the PDP, the former communist party which
the president has discarded in favour of the LDP.
People no longer believe in any party, he said. They know there is Karimovs
party, and the rest of them were created by Karimov to show the world how
democracy is blossoming here.
I am going to vote for the PDP because they are former communists and life
wasnt too bad when they were in power. I do know, though, that my vote will
count for nothing they will amend it [in favour of Karimov] when the ballots
are being counted.
With a just over a month to go, neither voters nor Uzbekistan-watchers are
holding their breath.
As in previous years, the election will be conducted in a pre-arranged manner
which ignores the interests of the people, said analyst Khudoiberganov. We
will see 85 to 90 per cent of the electorate voting for one man.
(The names of many interviewees have been withheld for security reasons.
TAJIKISTAN: REPRESSIVE RELIGIOUS LAW IN THE PIPELINE
Proposed legislation would make it harder for smaller faith groups to operate.
By Nafisa Pisarejeva in Dushanbe
Civil rights activists in Tajikistan fear the government is pushing for more
restrictive legislation on religious practice, in the same way it did with a
law on non-government groups earlier this year.
Activists and faith group representatives say their views have been ignored in
the discussion of the new legislation, which has been going on for the past two
years. The draft law, which would make it tougher for smaller religious
communities to register with the authorities, is still being discussed by
officials and has yet to be sent to parliament.
The new legislation has been designed by the culture ministrys religious
department and to replace the relatively liberal law on religion dating from
1994. It sets out tough new conditions which religious groups must meet before
gaining official registration, including an increase in the minimum number of
members, and it would prohibit missionary activities.
Islam is the religion of Tajiks and the large Uzbek minority, while ethnic
Russians are traditionally of Orthodox Christian background. These two major
religious communities have avoided poaching each others congregations, but
have looked on with concern as newer groups, often Protestant Christian, have
moved in and begun proselytising since the collapse of the Soviet Union in
The new law is clearly aimed at curbing the activities of these smaller groups,
and they are now trying to make their concerns heard. In July, some 20
Protestant groups and the Bahai Society wrote to President Imomali Rahmon
voicing alarm over the draft religious legislation.
The law creates completely impractical conditions for registering religious
minority organisations, whether they already exist or are newly created. Thus,
they make it illegal for believers to practice their religion, and this
suggests that in future, the state will persecute them for their beliefs,
their statement read.
There have also been expressions of concern from the Roman Catholic Church.
Human rights activists say the Law on Public Associations, which was passed at
the end of April and governs the activity of non-government organisations,
NGOs, set a bad precedent because there, too, the views of civil society
activists were ignored, and the result was a restrictive piece of legislation.
We must not allow what has happened to the law on public associations to
happen to this religious legislation. If we dont defend our rights actively,
every law that is passed will ignore our interests, said the chairman of the
ethnic Korean society, Viktor Kim.
Most Koreans in Tajikistan who are there because Stalin deported large
numbers from the Far East in the late Thirties are Christians, and many have
joined some of the newer faith groups.
The NGO legislation, introduced to replace out-of-date laws from the Nineties,
requires organisations to register annually with the authorities. Local and
international NGOs argue that this gives the authorities leverage to exert
pressure on them.
That law was drafted without involving civil society activists or independent
legal consultants, they say.
While some amendments have since been adopted following complaints from local
and foreign groups including the scrapping of a requirement for foreign
ministry accreditation in addition to registration with the justice ministry
these only apply to international NGOs.
Kim said that before the law was introduced, civil society groups found it
easier to participate in debates, and their views were taken more into account.
Now we do not have close ties with parliament. While they may talk about their
willingness to cooperate, their doors are closed, he said.
Political scientist Parviz Mullojanov said important legislation should not be
passed without consulting the public.
Conducting [reviews] of public expertise is impossible without the active
involvement of NGOs, and requires close cooperation between the civil sector
and legislative bodies, he said.
A member of the team which drafted the NGO legislation on NGOs told IWPR, on
condition of anonymity, that the new regulations had been passed because NGOs
were suspected to have played a role in popular revolts in Ukraine, Georgia and
Kyrgyzstan, in which political leaderships were overthrown.
Many international NGOs in different countries threaten the security of
country, and we should take that into account, he said. NGOs such as Freedom
House and the National Democratic Institute are the causes of many revolutions
and disorders in the post-Soviet countries.
Mullojanov said that following the March 2005 Kyrgyz revolution, in which the
then president Askar Akaev was ousted after thousands took the streets in
protest over the disputed result of an election, Tajik politicians concluded
that NGOs played a part in mobilising the population.
One clause in the NGO law requires all relevant groups to re-register by the
end of the year. According to head of the registration department at the Tajik
justice ministry, Davlat Sulaymonov, about 70 local and international NGOs have
been re-registered already and about 20 more applications are being considered.
Mullojanov predicts that the outcome will be a significant drop in the existing
number of registered NGOs, put at over 3,000.
Analysts predict that the proposals on religious law may have a similar effect,
cutting the number of faith groups that enjoy legal recognition. Without
registration, churches can be closed down and worshippers prevented from
practising their religion in public.
Under current laws, only ten signatures are needed to register a faith
organisation. The new proposals would require a minimum of 20 members and 200
Not every group of worshippers in the country will be able to collect the
number of signatures set out in the bill, said Aleksandr Vervay, who chairs
the Union of Evangelical Baptist Christian Churches in Tajikistan.
We have given our recommendations on this bill, and if this new law is to be
adopted, we want it to take into account the concerns of religious
organisations and to be widely discussed.
Said Ahmedov, a former chairman of the governments committee on religious
affairs, added that while the old law had some defects, at least it did not
restrict the activities of religious groups.
Nafisa Pisaredjeva is an IWPR contributor in Dushanbe.
REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique
insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists,
the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly
The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek,
Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better
local and international understanding of the region.
IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The
service is published online in English and Russian.
The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and
do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.
REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal
Chazan; Senior Editor: John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule
Mukhametrakhimova; Project Director: Kumar Bekbolotov.
IWPR Project Development and Support: Executive Director: Anthony Borden;
Strategy & Assessment Director: Alan Davis; Chief Programme Officer: Mike Day.
IWPR builds democracy at the frontlines of conflict and change through the
power of professional journalism. IWPR programs provide intensive hands-on
training, extensive reporting and publishing, and ambitious initiatives to
build the capacity of local media. Supporting peace-building, development and
the rule of law, IWPR gives responsible local media a voice.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7831 1030 Fax: +44 (0)20 7831 1050
For further details on this project and other information services and media
programmes, go to: www.iwpr.net
ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2007 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
If you wish to change your subscription details or unsubscribe please go to: