KAZAK MEDIA CRACKDOWN COUNTERPRODUCTIVE  Observers say restrictions have merely 
increased interest in leaked recordings purporting to reveal official 
wrongdoing.  By Elina Karakulova in Bishkek 

KAZAKSTAN: ETHNIC CLASH A WORRYING SIGN  Recurring conflicts suggest officials 
should be keeping a close watch on ethnic tensions.  By IWPR staff in Central 

KYRGYZSTAN’S CELEBRITY PARTIES  The revival in political activity in the run up 
to elections has not resulted in the emergence of strong parties.  By Yryskeldi 
Kadykeev in Bishkek 

election officials could make it almost impossible for parties to win seats in 
parliament.  By Yryskeldi Kadykeev in Bishkek 

used to workers coming from abroad if they want inward investment.  By Asliddin 
Dostiev in Kulyab and Ruhshona Najimiddinova in Dushanbe 


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Observers say restrictions have merely increased interest in leaked recordings 
purporting to reveal official wrongdoing.

By Elina Karakulova in Bishkek 

Analysts say the harsh measures the Kazak government has taken to stop the 
media publishing potentially damaging material have only served to make people 
more curious about the offending information. Nor does it do Kazakstan’s 
international reputation much good.

Several opposition websites have been blocked over the last two months after 
they published audio recordings of conversations which appeared to be of 
high-level officials admitting corruption as well as a plot to eliminate 
President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s disgraced ex-son-in-law, Rakhat Aliev. 

In May, Aliev was sacked as ambassador to Austria and the OSCE after he was 
charged with kidnapping two former top managers in Nurbank, in which he was a 
major shareholder. 

Aliev said at the time that his fall from grace was politically-motivated, as 
he had told Nazarbaev he planned to run for the presidency in 2012. 

The president’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbaeva, divorced Aliev in June. 

In late October, the authorities blocked several opposition sites, offering 
technical problems as the explanation. This came after audio recordings and 
transcripts of telephone conversations supposedly between high-level officials 
appeared on the internet, in which the speakers discuss ways of silencing Aliev 
to stop him making statements that might compromise the authorities.

In November, more material appeared on the sites, once again ostensibly 
intercepted phone calls between senior figures, but this time concerning the 
funding of the president’s party Nur Otan. 

The origin of these recordings is unknown, and their authenticity has not been 
confirmed. The Kazak prosecution service and interior ministry have said the 
recordings are fake.

A Radio Liberty report from November 2 said that four opposition weeklies which 
were planning to publish material relating to Aliev were turned away by their 
publishing houses and prevented from going to print amid veiled threats from 
the authorities.

Meanwhile, internet users in the country reported problems accessing external 
Central Asian websites such as Ferghana.ru.

In a telephone interview with Radio Liberty on October 26, Aliev effectively 
accused his former father-in-law of ordering the killing of opposition leader 
Altynbek Sarsenbaev and two aides in 2006.

On November 8, a trial began in Almaty in which Aliev stands accused of 
involvement in abduction, financial wrongdoing, and abuse of official powers. 
The trial is taking place in absentia, as Austria has refused to extradite 
Aliev, on the grounds that there was no guarantee that judicial proceedings 
would be fair.

The same day, the prosecutor's office issued a warning to media outlets to 
refrain from publishing material that violated the privacy of personal 
correspondence and telephone conversations. Prosecutors have ordered an 
investigation into how the recordings were produced, how they ended up on 
websites, and whether they represent a breach of anyone’s privacy. 

Adil Jalilov, head of the MediaNet NGO in Almaty, said the country has 
continued to use restrictive measures left over from Soviet times to control 
the media.

“The blocking of sites showed that there are no new methods of dealing with 
media. Blocking is the most primitive way of exercising control,” he said. 

Media in Kazakstan already face many restrictions, and the country ranks 125th 
out of 169 on the Press Freedom Index produced annually by the media watchdog 
Reporters Without Borders. While a handful of newspapers in the country offer 
alternative sources of information, opposition material is mostly available 
only on the internet.

Online news services have faced similar restrictions in the past. Many came 
under severe pressure after publishing articles on “Kazakgate” – the 
high-profile trial of Nazarbaev’s former energy adviser, who is accused of 
arranging bribes for top Kazak officials in exchange for granting oil contracts 
in the Nineties. 

The Coalition for Torture Prevention in Central Asia, which unites human rights 
organisations across the region, issued a statement condemning the latest media 

“The simultaneous blocking of online media agencies disloyal to the Kazak 
government - such as Zona.kz, Kub.kz, GEO.kz, Inkar.info - and inspections 
conducted on the offices of the Respublica, Svoboda Slova, Vzglyad.kz and 
Tasjargan opposition newspapers leaves no doubt there is a campaign against the 
independent mass media designed to force them to stop work,” it said. 

Vyacheslav Abramov, representing the coalition, said the media crackdown was 
unprecedented in its intensity and scale. The information blockade was 
organised and highly efficient, and extended to more media outlets than similar 
actions had done in the past.

Abramov noted that the campaign against media outlets had achieved its aims, as 
many had agreed to new restrictions. 

Culture and Information Minister Yermuhamet Yertysbaev confirmed that several 
opposition media had told him they “promised not to support the criminal Aliev, 
not to give him a voice on their pages, not to publish malign information 
passed to them by Aliev, and not to insult the president’s reputation”, 
according to a Respublica newspaper report from November 9.

Abramov added that while he personally believed the websites had no right to 
publish transcripts of private telephone conversations, the tactics used by the 
authorities had been harsh. 

By contrast, the head of the Kazak media organisation Journalists in Trouble, 
Rozlana Taukina, said that there was no personal information contained in the 
audio files, so media outlets had every right to make them publicly available.

“The statement [prosecutor’s warning] was absolutely unconvincing because there 
is nothing secret or personal about it,” she said. “It is information in the 
public interest that relates to officials who run the country and are involved 
in party politics. It cannot constitute a breach of private correspondence or 
of state secrecy.”

Taukina predicted that the government’s response to attempts to publish further 
revelations will be both swift and harsh, “As soon as [such] information 
appears, I’m sure that newspapers will be closed down, and their electricity 
could be turned off.”

She argued that the fallout from the media crackdown had been more damaging to 
the Kazak authorities than the content of the audio files. 

“The state’s efforts to prevent this information spreading has created 
suspicions,” she said. “Times have changed. One cannot withhold information 
published on the internet, and we’re now witnessing a dramatic rise in public 
interest in the blocked websites.”

The chairman of the Journalists’ Union, Seitgazy Mataev, agreed that the 
attempt to block information had been counterproductive. People have continued 
to access blocked websites through proxy services or else they’ve got friends 
to email them the reports, he said. 

Mataev added that this media scandal could undermine Kazakstan’s bid to chair 
the OSCE bid in 2009, a decision on which will be announced later this month. 

“This is a big minus for the country. For other OSCE members, this counts as 
curtailing freedom of speech, and of course that’s true. Such things don’t 
happen in other countries, because they’re aware it’s pointless.”

Elina Karakulova is an IWPR editor in Bishkek


Recurring conflicts suggest officials should be keeping a close watch on ethnic 

By IWPR staff in Central Asia 

Sporadic clashes involving different ethnic groups in Kazakstan suggest that 
the authorities are failing to manage intercommunal tensions and work towards 
better integration, say analysts.

Over the last two years, a number of incidents that initially had no ethnic 
dimension have blown up into broader clashes between people divided along 
ethnic lines. 

In the most recent case, rioting broke out in the village of Mayatas in the 
South Kazakstan region, after a 16-year-old Kurdish male was accused of 
sexually assaulting a four-year-old Kazak boy. After the child’s father 
reported the alleged attack to police on October 28, local Kurds suffered arson 
attacks which continued for three days. 

According to local news agencies, the majority of Kurds fled the village. 

Hanush Usenov, the grandfather of the teenager accused of the crime, said his 
family members were unable to leave because when they tried to do so, they were 
set upon.

“First they threw stones at our windows, and then they jumped over the fence, 
poured petrol on a hut and a truck full of things, and set fire to them. We 
tried to resist, but we couldn’t stop them. My son was hospitalised because 
they beat him up,” he said.

Usenov alleged that the police failed to provide security to Kurdish villagers 
when the violence erupted, “The police saw it, but did nothing. They were here 
but they did not protect us. These ‘guardians’ simply stood to one side and 

The homes of many other Kurdish families were also attacked.

Myrza Afendiev, whose house was razed to the ground, described the attack to 
IWPR, “They brought some straw, put it on our house and poured petrol on it. I 
begged them not to. I said, “Children, don’t burn me out! I’m old - where will 
I go? I am guilty of nothing!’

“They punched me and I fell over. And then they wouldn’t let me put the fire 
out. They waited for a couple of hours until everything had burned to ashes.”

Although police report that the attacks on property began on October 31, local 
people say the violence started on October 28, when the alleged sexual assault 
was first reported to the police.

In a press release, the Kazak interior ministry reported seven incidents in 
which one house and several outbuildings, cars and haystacks were burned to the 
ground. The press release also said that two local citizens of unspecified 
ethnicity were beaten up and three policemen suffered injuries while attempting 
to restore order.

Police were drafted in to patrol the streets of Mayatas.

On November 15, the regional prosecutor’s office reported that a 16-year-old 
suspect of Kurdish ethnicity had been charged with rape, and 18 people 
suspected of involvement in attacks on property in Mayatas had been detained. 

Interviewed by local journalists on November 6, the head of the Association of 
Kurds of Kazakstan, Nadir Nadirov, accused local government officials of 
failing to prevent a localised incident from triggering broader conflict 
between Kazaks and Kurds. 

“When there’s a crime, it shouldn’t [be allowed to] grow into interethnic 
hostility,” he said.

While the South Kazakstan regional police department says there has been no 
further trouble since the incident in Mayatas, Nadirov told the internet news 
service Fergana.ru that ethnic Kurds in other villages were still being 
targeted in arson attacks.

“After the lootings of houses in Mayatas, the wave of arson spilled over to 
other villages and other regions including Shymkent and Jambyl,” he said in the 
interview, published on November 19.

“I’ve met people in villages where there was trouble. They told me their houses 
were burned, their children were attacked, and they themselves were threatened 
and told to leave their villages immediately.”

Observers say the case of Mayatas reflects a worrying trend where crimes or 
personal disputes rapidly escalate into fighting between members of different 
communities. In an ethnically diverse country that has managed to maintain a 
good deal of harmony since independence in 1991, local and national officials 
may have taken their eye off the ball. 

In March, a billiard-room brawl between two villagers in the Almaty region – 
one an ethnic Kazak and the other a Chechen – grew into a street fight 
involving 200 people from the two communities. Shots were fired and three 
people died. (See Kazakstan: Village Brawl Reverberates in Halls of Power, RCA 
No. 487, 23-Mar-07.)

In October 2006, a fight broke out between hundreds of Turkish expatriates and 
local workers at an oil facility belonging to the Tengizchevroil company in the 
Atyrau region of western Kazakstan. At least 100 people were taken to hospital 
in rioting which, according to local reports, began when a Kazak worker tried 
to push into a queue for lunch. 

Two months later, a brawl in a café in Chilik, a town in Almaty region in the 
east, triggered clashes between Kazaks and Uighurs.

Political scientist Eduard Poletaev, the chief editor of the Mir Yevrasii 
journal, said that recurring outbreaks of ethnic violence posed a “serious 
challenge” to the authorities and raised questions about the performance of 
officials responsible for security and stability.

Poletaev argued that the authorities have only made superficial attempts to 
integrate its ethnic minorities.

“The problem is that everything is kept at a declarative level. The 
organisations responsible for ensuring ethnic harmony concern themselves mainly 
with arranging performances in national costume on holidays,” he said.

He believes some of the current conflicts can be traced all the way back to the 
forced displacement of several ethnic groups by Joseph Stalin.

“Ethnic groups who were moved to an alien environment were forced to acquire 
lucrative jobs and trade on the black market. This sparked a negative reaction 
from [the rest of] society,” he explained.

As well as deporting the Chechens, Germans, Crimean Tatars and other groups 
wholesale to Central Asia, Stalin also sent thousands of Kurds there from 
Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1937 and from Georgia in 1944. Paranoid about 
minorities he considered of suspect loyalty, he seems to have been worried that 
the Kurds might collaborate with Turkey. 

According to the official statistics, there are now some 46,000 ethnic Kurds in 
Kazakstan, of whom an estimated 7,000 live in the South Kazakstan region.

Political scientist Maxim Kaznacheev agrees that recent violent incidents 
suggest that the government is not working hard enough to defuse ethnic 

“There’s no point in talking about a [government] strategy to resolve 
interethnic conflicts – it simply doesn’t exist,” he said. “Unfortunately, it 
has to be said that ethnic conflicts are going to recur with increasing 
frequency…. Our government has not able to offer society alternative ways to 
express protest.” 

Sociologist Gaziz Nasyrov said the frequency of such clashes leads him to 
suspect that some politicians would prefer ethnic unrest to organised 
anti-government protests. 

“Residents of rural areas, where life is harder than in the towns, are probably 
being allowed to blow off steam by directing their protest in a manner that, in 
certain people’s opinion, is the safest way.” 

According to people in Mayatas, the recent unrest has left the village divided 
along ethnic lines, something they say was never the case before.

“I’ve lived here for 54 years and nothing like this has ever happened before,” 
said villager Gandal Maksieva. “Look around - the village looks as if it’s 
completely dead. We all used to live peacefully, amicably and happily.”

Another villager, an elderly Russian lady, said the attacks had instilled fear. 

“People here were friendly and we used to visit each other. For instance, 
recently there was a wedding where the whole village came; there were Kurds and 
Kazaks. And now we’re all afraid.”


The revival in political activity in the run up to elections has not resulted 
in the emergence of strong parties. 

By Yryskeldi Kadykeev in Bishkek 

As Kyrgyzstan gears up to elect a new kind of parliament based on political 
parties, some analysts have predicted the emergence of bigger political 
entities based on policies rather than personalities. However, with less than a 
month to go, it looks like business as usual, with numerous parties fielding 
prominent politicians in the hope that this will win them votes.

When changes to the electoral rules were revealed in a constitutional draft 
announced by President Kurmanbek Bakiev in September and duly passed in a 
referendum on October 21, it was clear that the introduction of proportional 
representation in place of the old first-past-the-post system would favour more 
substantial parties. As things stood, few of Kyrgyzstan’s 100-odd parties stood 
a chance of overcoming the five per cent hurdle and forming a government. 

The new constitution approved in October gives the majority party, for the 
first time in Kyrgyzstan, the right to pick a prime minister, who then 
nominates ministers.

To stand a chance of winning seats at all in the December 16 ballot, let alone 
gaining a majority, parties will need to be fairly substantial. The 
constitution sets a threshold of five per cent of the vote nationwide, and 0.5 
per cent in each of the country’s regions as a way of ensuring parties have 
national rather than local appeal. To achieve this, many would need to formally 
merge into bigger entities. Under the electoral code passed at the same time as 
the constitution, parties cannot form ad hoc election bloc. 

However, apart from President Bakiev’s attempt to create a ruling party, that 
has not happened. 

Bakiev announced the Ak Jol People’s Party on October 15, saying there was a 
need for “a new political force, a party of construction, responsibility and 
action”. The day after he was elected party chairman, Bakiev laid down his 
powers temporarily, explaining that as head of state he could not participate 
in party politics.

So far, Ak Jol has expanded by recruiting politicians from other parties rather 
than by swallowing up allied groups in their entirety.

“There is a normal process of party amalgamation going on, and it only can be 
welcomed,” said Elmira Ibraimova, Ak Jol’s deputy chairperson. 

The opposition, meanwhile, remains in at least three camps. Ak-Shumkar, which 
emerged in April 2007 out of earlier opposition formations, announced plans to 
team up with the older Ata-Meken party in late October. The new entity has 
taken the name Ata-Meken, and has gone on to present a list of candidates to 
Kyrgyzstan’s election commission.

Meanwhile, Ar Namys headed by Felix Kulov, Bakiev’s former prime minister and 
now one of his fiercest opponents, is likely to go its own way. It has agreed a 
kind of mutual support pact with Ata-Meken, but they will not form a closer 

The Social Democrats, who also count as an opposition party despite having 
Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev as their leader, will field candidates 

Political analyst Nur Omarov believes the different opposition parties have yet 
to recover from events in April this year which left them in disarray. Amid 
mounting tension between the Bakiev administration and the opposition, the more 
moderate Movement for Reforms aligned itself with Kulov’s United Front for a 
Worthy Future for Kyrgyzstan for a rally that was broken up just over a week 

This confrontational strategy failed and Bakiev was not unseated, and the 
opposition has struggled to regroup and find new tactics since then.

“The leaders of certain parties and movements have been compromised, 
particularly after the April events, and this serves to keep these opposition 
parties away from one another,” Omarov told IWPR. 

Omurbek Tekebaev, who heads the Ata-Meken party, agreed that Kyrgyzstan’s 
parties were reluctant to join forces. 

“Many party bosses don’t want… to create new parties to suit the moment,” he 
said. “They would have to forget the history of their party, the history of a 
glorious struggle against authoritarianism, and amalgamate with someone else 
just to get into parliament. And the voters might not like it, either.” 

By the time this report was published, 12 of the 50 parties that had applied to 
stand in the election had been approved by the poll commission.

Under the rules of proportional representation, each party can nominate up to 
100 candidates, and seats will then be allocated from the top of the list 
downwards according to well it fares at the polls. 

However, the Central Electoral Commission has ruled that only the top five 
names on each party’s list will appear on the ballot papers, for reasons of 

The result has been to encourage parties to focus their campaigns on big-name 
politicians and public figures rather than on policies. 

Thus, Bakiev’s Ak Jol has Cholpon Baekova, the head of Kyrgyzstan’s 
Constitutional Court, as number one in a top five that also includes State 
Secretary Adakhan Madumarov and Vladimir Nifadyev, head of the Kyrgyz-Russian 
Slavonic University.

Apart from Tekebaev, the new, consolidated Ata-Meken has noted opposition 
parliamentarians Kubatbek Baybolov and Temir Sariev, while the Social Democrats 
have a constellation of well-known figures including ex-parliamentary deputy 
Omurbek Babanov and vice-president of the American University in Central Asia 
Bakyt Beshimov.

Kulov and his deputy Emil Aliev are leading contenders in the Ar-Namys, which 
also has Anvar Artykov and Valery Dil, leading members of the ethnic Uzbek and 
German communities, respectively. 

According to Omarov, that leaves voters having to choose between individual 
politicians, rather than clearly-defined political directions.

“The voters will vote for personalities. In the forthcoming election, it’s a 
serious problem that what people want is to see new faces and new politicians, 
whereas what we’ll get is politicians who have been around for the past 15 
years,” he said.

“As for the programmes of the political movements, they are all much of a 
muchness. They all make appeals to the people and say they’ll protect them. 
Just a set of hackneyed phrases with no real content.”

Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, who has been placed number five on the list of the 
moderate opposition party Asaba, agreed that personalities – and money too – 
would count. 

“Reputation and money are still needed to win elections in our country. The 
top-five lists consist of either the wealthy or the famous,” he said. “The 
parties are bringing in well-known, tried-and-tested politicians like me to win 
votes. I describe them as the ‘clapped-out steam engines’ that will pull the 
young, fresh politicians in their train.” 

Sariev, one of the leaders of Ata-Meken, agrees that there is a point to using 
high-profile politicians as long as they form part of a good team. 

“People need to have confidence and they’re looking for leaders,” he said. 
“They’ll vote wholeheartedly for anyone in whom they have faith. In addition, 
since these are party-based elections they will be voting for a list and 
they’ll want to see a team whose members complement each other.” 

As debate rages about the justice of imposing a regional as well as national 
threshold of votes which parties need to surpass in order to win seats, 
politicians are divided on how much of a role regionalism will play in this 

“People don’t have time to study the [campaign] platforms of all the parties. 
Our voters may forget the one party’s programme the moment they read another. 
So the defining factor will be regionalism,” said Jenishbek Nazaraliev, who is 
number one on the opposition Asaba party’s list.

Sariev disagrees, saying, “I don’t think the regional factor will play a 
significant role. Sociological surveys demonstrate that people gain more 
confidence in the opposition parties after they merge. That gives me hope that 
we will move away from the regional factor and pay more attention to 
personalities and teams”.

Edil Baisalov, a well-known opposition figure who has been nominated by the 
Social Democratic Party, is also optimistic about the forthcoming ballot.

“There’s rapid political development under way, which is gratifying,” he said. 
“It won’t be an ideal election, but it will offer important lessons for how to 
make this system take root and establish itself. It’s important for parties to 
galvanise the voters.”

He concluded, “I think it will strengthen democracy and help make civil society 
more cohesive.”

Yryskeldi Kadykeev is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek. Tolkunbek Turdubaev, a 
BBC correspondent in Bishkek, also contributed to this report.


A new requirement set by election officials could make it almost impossible for 
parties to win seats in parliament.

By Yryskeldi Kadykeev in Bishkek 

Opposition politicians and human rights groups in Kyrgyzstan say a rule change 
by the electoral authorities will make it virtually impossible for them to win 
seats in the December 16 parliamentary election.

The parties were already unhappy that the new constitution and electoral code 
approved in an October 16 referendum set two different thresholds that they 
must meet if they are to win seats under the new proportional representation 

First, they must get five per cent of the total national electorate, estimated 
at 2.7 million people. Second, they must also get 0.5 per cent of the vote in 
each of Kyrgyzstan’s regions. This latter provision was written into the rules 
to prevent parties based on local or ethnic interests from making it into the 
national legislature. 

However, on November 19, the Central Electoral Commission came out with a 
ruling that completely rewrote the regional threshold.

Instead of 0.5 per cent of the electoral roll for each region individually, 
which would be proportional to the size of the local population, the CEC said 
that in each region, parties must win 0.5 per cent of the total national 
electoral roll. This is a fixed figure which works out at 13,500 people. 

The rule change may seem a mere technicality, but it could make it well-nigh 
impossible for even a strong party to win the required number of votes in every 
one of Kyrgyzstan’s seven regions, plus the big cities of Bishkek and Osh.

In a large region like Jalalabad, for example, the hurdle should still be easy 
enough to meet. 

But take a sparsely-populated region like Talas, for example, where there are 
121,000 people on the electoral roll. According to the Electoral Code, parties 
had to get 0.5 per cent of that total. At just over 600 people, that should 
present little problem, even if many of the listed voters are away working in 
Russia or are too apathetic to go to the polls. 

The CEC’s new ruling, however, requires that each party – so far 12 have been 
formally registered by the CEC – gets 13,500 votes in Talas, over 11 per cent 
of the listed total. 

Constitutional lawyer Gulnara Iskakova argues that this is an unworkable 
system. “Regions have different numbers of voters. How does this threshold 
relate to the regions? I think the upcoming election will be undemocratic and 
will not provide the parties with an equal starting-point,” she said. 

The CEC’s ruling sparked a furious response from parties which felt the ground 
was being cut from under them.

On November 21, ten political parties wrote a letter addressed to President 
Bakiev in which they said the new regional requirement “contradicts the 
constitution, creates artificial obstacles and violates the constitutional 
rights and freedoms of citizens”.

The parties urged Bakiev to clarify the situation. However, the president’s 
press office said he would not be meeting party leaders as this seemed 

Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of the opposition Ata-Meken – one of the parties 
which signed the letter – warns that so many parties could fall at the new 
hurdle that many of parliament’s 90 seats could be left empty.

“There’s a danger that none of the parties will win in the first round. That is 
seriously irresponsible, as it means we would risk being left without a 
parliament….the election would be annulled. This is dangerous,” he said, noting 
that President Bakiev ordered parliament’s dissolution after announcing the 
snap election in October, and a poor showing in December could mean a re-run 
would not take place until spring. 

Tekebaev warned of the dangers to the democratic process of striking out a 
party which had won 30 or 40 per cent of the vote nationally, but had failed 
the 0.5 per cent mark in one region. 

“The CEC would annul this victory, and the result would be that the views of a 
large slice of the population would be ignored… The election result might not 
be recognised by the majority of the population,” he said.

When he proposed a new constitution and called the December election, president 
Bakiev was clearly trying to draw a line under the political instability and 
argument – much of it centring on the constitution – that has dogged his rule 
virtually ever since he came to power in the March 2005 revolution. 

Some analysts are now warning that if the regional threshold is not sorted out, 
the issue could lead to a period of renewed uncertainty and instability.

Political scientist Nur Omarov is concerned that if Bakiev cannot produce a 
convincing explanation for the regional barrier, the legitimacy of the December 
election result could be placed in doubt.

“Contradictory interpretations of this rule will create scope for litigation 
and undermine the legitimacy of this election,” he said.

The Civil Committee for Voters Rights Protection, which was recently formed to 
promote fair elections, sees the threshold as a major barrier to Kyrgyzstan’s 

In a statement issued on October 20, the committee said, “The rule is 
premature, and may greatly limit access to power for political parties that 
have great potential and outstanding leaders, and which could make a real 
contribution to the development of Kyrgyzstan.”

Because the CEC ruling would deprive people of an equal say in the 
decision-making process, the committee warned. “We believe there is a real 
danger of new conflicts among this country’s population.” 

In October, Bakiev set up a new group called the Ak Jol People’s Party which he 
clearly envisages as a future ruling party. 

With the president’s backing, Ak Jol should be uniquely placed to pick up 
13,500 votes in each of the nine electoral provinces. However, the party’s 
deputy chair Elmira Ibraimova has filed a legal petition requesting the CEC to 
renounce its re-interpretation of the regional requirement.

At the same time, Adakhan Madumarov, another leading figure in Ak Jol who has 
stepped down as State Secretary to run in the election, insists the regional 
barrier is not in breach of the constitution.

“If any party is worried that it won’t get the necessary amount of votes to 
break this half per cent barrier, then it doesn’t have the right to claim to be 
a national political party and form a cabinet of ministers. This rule has been 
introduced to get political parties to unite on the basis of their convictions 
and programmes. I don’t see this half per cent barrier as a major tragedy,” 
Madumarov told IWPR. 

CEC member Aigul Ryskulova said the aim of the newly-interpreted threshold 
barrier is to rule out the many tiny parties and encourage the stronger ones to 
field candidates.

“We can already see that some oppositional parties have merged. Proportional 
representation is a more voter-friendly system. It will lead to the creation of 
several large, strong parties that will represent the interests of most 
important sections of society,” she said. “Parties have to move away from 
regionalism, and that is why 0.5 per cent is needed.”

Ryskulova said that if Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court was asked to make a ruling on 
the matter and decided that the original interpretation of how the 0.5 per cent 
quota should work – based on regional electoral rolls - the CEC would fall into 

However, she said, the system would work even if further rounds of voting had 
to be held to fill parliament’s seats. 

“If no party crosses the threshold, there will be repeat elections. It won’t be 
a catastrophe,” she said. “We would like it to be completed in one round, with 
a few big parties getting into the parliament. But this is a big political race 
with a big prize – the right of the majority party to nominate a prime minister 
and form a government. So the requirements are high as well.” 

Yryskeldi Kadykeev is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.


Tajiks are going to have to get used to workers coming from abroad if they want 
inward investment.

By Asliddin Dostiev in Kulyab and Ruhshona Najimiddinova in Dushanbe 

A recent brawl between local people and incoming Chinese workers suggests that 
the authorities in Tajikistan will have to keep an eye on the tensions that may 
arise out of increasing economic investment.

Analysts say the November 11 incident, when several people were injured after a 
fight broke out between Tajiks in the southern city of Kulyab and a squad of 
Chinese labourers, highlights the teething problems associated with 
foreign-funded construction projects where investors may want to bring in their 
own workers. 

They argue that the authorities should take practical steps to help migrant 
workers and the local community get along with each other.

Siyovush Ishokov, 17, was injured when a fight broke out between around 40 
Chinese construction workers and 50 Tajik men and adolescents in Kulyab. 

Ishokov told IWPR that that it all began when one of a group of teenagers 
gathered outside a mobile phone shop threw a stone at a truck full of Chinese 
labourers which had stopped close by.

According to Iskhokov, dozens of Chinese got out and set upon bystanders with 
their tools including steel bars and hammers.

“Around Chinese men began beating up a boy who must have been ten or 11 years 
old. I tried to help him, but I got hit by numerous blows from steel bars. They 
beat me until I was unconscious.”

Kakhor Murodov, a doctor in the regional hospital, told IWPR that Ishokov was 
admitted with multiple injuries.

Ishokov said that although at least ten other Tajiks were wounded in the 
fighting, they did not go to hospital because they wanted to avoid getting into 
trouble with the police.

One Chinese man who was taken to hospital had to undergo minor surgery. Like 
the Tajiks, many other Chinese are thought to have declined hospital treatment 
to avoid unpleasantness with the police or with their employers.

According to media reports, tensions remained high following the incident and 
security was increased in the town. 

Murodov said it was not the first time there had been a fight between Chinese 
workers and the locals. A few months ago, some Chinese and local boys from 
Mumirak, a village in the Muminobad district, had been treated at a local 
hospital following a fight.

Some of those interviewed for this report suggested that such incidents go 
unreported because neither side wants to make further trouble for themselves. 

Chinese embassy staff in Dushanbe told IWPR they were unaware of the violence 
in Kulyab and were unable to comment. 

A representative of the Tajik interior ministry who asked to remain anonymous 
told IWPR that there had been a marked increase in fights between locals and 
migrants as Chinese investment grew.

Tajikistan is one of the poorest post-Soviet countries and is struggling to 
attract foreign investment to turn its economy around. 

Dushanbe is keen to attract investors from its giant eastern neighbour, and 
about 150 joint ventures are already operating. 

Last year, China loaned Tajikistan 640 million US dollars to lay power lines 
and rebuild a road from Dushanbe to Uzbekistan.

Increased levels of economic cooperation have brought an influx of Chinese 
workers. According to the Tajik labour ministry, 1,000 of them were officially 
registered this year.

The workers involved in the brawl in Kulyab were part of a team of 300 
labourers drafted in to build a high-voltage electricity transmission line from 
Lolazor to Khatlon.

Tajikistan has had few immigrants in recent years, and is more noted for the 
seasonal exodus of its own working-age population, hundreds of thousands of 
whom go off every year to Russia and increasingly Kazakstan to earn money they 
could never hope to get at home. 

Observers are concerned that the unfamiliar phenomenon of incoming migrant 
labour could create further tensions if locals feel that the new arrivals are 
taking jobs that rightly belong to them.

Ghafur Rasulov, head of media relations at the Ministry for Economic 
Development and Trade, noted that many Chinese investors insist on providing 
their own labour and the Tajik authorities are powerless to change this.

“This is stipulated by the agreements, so we can’t do anything about it,” he 

The Tajik labour ministry has lobbied for a requirement that 70 per cent of any 
foreign company’s employees must be local people. However, Anvar Boboev, deputy 
director of the Agency for Social Protection and Migration, said the government 
is in no position to dictate terms to investors. 

“We can determine quotas for foreign workers, but we can’t impose strict 
barriers as they do in Kazakstan or Russia, because those countries are [more] 
attractive,” said Boboev. “If we imposed barriers, we’d scare away investors.”

Political scientist Rashid Abdullo said he understands why Chinese companies 
want to employ their own workers, as it works out cheaper and more efficient 
for them. As investment flows increase, there will inevitably be more of these 
foreign workers, not least because there is not enough suitably qualified 
labour in Tajikistan.

Locals say animosity towards migrant workers is particularly high in areas of 
the country where unemployment is high – the southeastern area around Kulyab is 
a good example of this – and stems from a perception that the Chinese workers 
are “stealing” local jobs.

Zafar Mahmudov, a Dushanbe resident who works for an international 
organisation, said ethnic tensions often arise because locals look down on the 
incomers, thinking that “they depend on us, so we’re better than them”. 

A sociologist with a Dushanbe-based research centre noted that migrant workers 
tend to congregate in the same area and are often at a loose end when the 
working day is done. Add to this the psychological strain of being away from 
home and family, she said, and these workers are liable to be easily provoked.

“I can only advise dispersing them in small groups, so that these conflicts are 
less in evidence,” she said. “Put a large number of men in one place with no 
leisure facilities and of course you’re going to have problems.”

Asliddin Dostiev is a correspondent for the Khatlon Press news agency in 
Kulyab. Ruhshona Najimiddinova is an independent journalist in Dushanbe.

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