WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 529 Part 2, February 2, 2008

CHANGES TO KYRGYZ ASSEMBLY “MUZZLE” DEPUTIES  The government says it only wants 
to streamline parliament’s work, but the opposition says the real aim is to 
silence debate.  By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek

practical reasons for re-engaging with the Uzbek regime but activists say it’s 
certainly not helping democracy.  By IWPR staff in Central Asia

TAJIKS PULL THE PLUG ON CAFÉS  Candles make comeback in Tajikistan, where the 
authorities have cut the power to cafes, restaurants and shops in a move to 
save electricity.   By Nafisa Pisarejeva in Dushanbe


For more details visit http://iwpr.net/kurtschork.html 

NEW PROJECT: IWPR now operates a major new media project in Asia. Visit IWPR's 
new Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project website at 

CROSS CAUCASUS JOURNALISM NETWORK. IWPR has launched the website of a unique 
Caucasus-wide programme at 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 

**** www.iwpr.net 

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: 

**** www.iwpr.net 


The government says it only wants to streamline parliament’s work, but the 
opposition says the real aim is to silence debate.

By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek

Legislative amendments affecting the new parliament of Kyrgyzstan have curbed 
its members’ democratic rights to speak, critics say. 

After parliament approved changes to legislation governing the way parliament 
works on January 24, President Kurmanbek Bakiev signed the bill into law the 
next day. The assembly had passed the amendments by 63 of the 90 votes. 

The need for a rule change came about because a new electoral system was 
introduced in October under which all 90 seats in an expanded legislature are 
filled by proportional representation, drawing on party candidate lists, rather 
than the first-past-the-post system used in past ballots. 

The proportional method was applied in the December election, in which the 
pro-presidential Ak Jol party won an outright majority, despite being set up 
only two months beforehand. 

The new regulations contain a controversial stipulation that the number of 
members of parliament allowed to speak in any legislative debate is 
predetermined by the amount of seats each party holds. 

The parliamentary leader of each of the three parties represented will get to 
address the chamber on new pieces of legislation, and then Ak Jol will be able 
to field a further nine speakers, as it holds 71 seats. However, the Social 
Democrats, who have 11 seats, will only be able to put forward three speakers, 
and the Communists just two, on behalf of their eight seats. 

In previous incarnations of the Kyrgyz parliament, all members had the right to 
make their views felt when bills were under discussion. 

Alisher Sabirov, who chairs the parliamentary committee for ethics and 
regulations which drafted the amendments, said they reflected suggestions made 
by several parliamentary groups, and also the practical experience of other 
legislatures in Russia, Kazakstan, Moldova and Ukraine. 

Sabirov accepted that the restrictions might appear to curb members’ rights to 
speak freely, but he insisted the point was that political parties count, not 
individual members. He envisions that the parties’ parliamentary groups will 
meet separately and discuss draft legislation, come to a common view on it, and 
then have this articulated by however many speakers they are allotted.

“The voters did not pick individual candidates, but parties and programmes,” he 
said. “The effectiveness and success of parliament’s work won’t be shaped by 
brilliant orators but by the professional decisions that it makes.” 

Unsurprisingly, pro-government deputies agree with him. Zainiddin Kurmanov of 
Ak Jol said the regulations would help parliament exercise its legislative and 
supervisory powers more effectively. 

“The majoritarian parliament we had before only discussed problems, but there 
was no action and no results,” he said. “The point is for members to discuss an 
issue in a professional manner, propose what do to, and get a real outcome.”

Miroslav Niazov, formerly secretary of the Security Council of Kyrgyzstan, 
agreed that this was no more than an attempt to “streamline” legislators’ work. 

“The previous parliament had a low efficiency ratio but it made a lot of 
noise,” he said.

Opposition deputies disagree, saying the real aim is to silence dissenting 
voices to make life easier for the executive.

The Social Democrats have complained the loudest, with one member, Damira 
Niazalieva, warning that members of parliament were being robbed of their right 
to express an opinion. 

“Deputies are being turned into voting machines,” she concluded. 

Murat Juraev, also from the Social Democrats, insists that thorough discussion 
is a prerequisite for good law-making, and that each of the 90 members should 
have the right to make their views felt. 

There have also been expressions of concern at other changes that have become 
law, not least a rule that members deemed to be misbehaving and disturbing the 
session will find that their microphones are switched off and they face 
disciplinary measures.

Furthermore, the rules have been changed so that a mere simple majority of 46 
people is needed for a quorum, unlike earlier times when parliament could only 
hold sessions when two-thirds of its members were present.

Some deputies are insisting that the real goal of all these changes is to 
ensure that even unpopular bills get passed without any fuss.

Rahat Irsaliev, a Social Democrat deputy, told IWPR he believed the regulations 
were changed specifically with a view to rushing through the privatisation of 
energy facilities. 

After years of discussion and half-measures, the privatisation process is now 
slated for completion this year. The old parliament – which had a difficult 
relationship with President Bakiev from his election in July 2005 to its own 
dissolution last year – repeatedly questioned the denationalisation of Kyrgyz 
power companies, arguing that the process was flawed and lacked transparency.

“Now, deputies who don’t agree with these laws will not even be able to express 
their views at a session,” complained Irsaliev. “People will remain unaware of 
laws that are adopted and how they will impact on their lives.”

Azimbek Beknazarov, a leading politician who was a member of the last 
parliament, said the new body had already revealed itself to be “tame” and 
subservient to the president. Now it has become “even more manageable and 
obedient”, he said.

Independent observers of the political scene in Kyrgyzstan have some sympathy 
with opposition complaints about the changes to the way parliament works.

Political scientist Nur Omarov says although the government claims the new 
rules will increase parliament’s efficiency, there is a danger that the 
restrictions will make it increasingly redundant.

“It is the only large public forum where important political and economic 
processes can be discussed,” he said. “Restrictions of this kind are unlikely 
to encourage more effective work; on the contrary, they just make parliament 
more dependent on decisions made by the president.” 

Erkin Alymbekov, who was deputy speaker in the last parliament, echoes Omarov’s 

“Limiting the deputies’ right of free expression will reduce the authority of 
parliament,” he maintained. “It will become possible to push anything through 
without any public discussion, simply by arranging it with the speaker of 
parliament, who represents the dominant party.” 

Yrys Kadykeev is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.


The West may have sound practical reasons for re-engaging with the Uzbek regime 
but activists say it’s certainly not helping democracy.

By IWPR staff in Central Asia

Western attempts to forge a rapprochement with the authoritarian government in 
Uzbekistan are a blow to the democratic reform movement throughout Central 
Asia, say local and international analysts.

Both the United States and the European Union have recently stepped up efforts 
to re-engage with the strategically important Central Asian nation after 
relationships soured following a human rights dispute three years ago.

On January 24, the Commander of US Central Command, Admiral William Fallon, 
paid a visit to Uzbekistan designed, in the words of the US embassy in 
Tashkent, to “renew dialogue with an important regional player”.

While little is known about details of the visit, during which Fallon met 
President Islam Karimov and senior Uzbek security officials, it offered further 
evidence that both parties are keen to mend fences. 

“We regard your visit to Uzbekistan as a remarkable event in the mutual 
relationship between the US and Uzbekistan”, Karimov was quoted as telling the 
American defence official.

Relations between the US and Uzbekistan, once strategic partners, went downhill 
after Washington condemned a harsh crackdown on protests in the eastern city of 
Andijan in May 2005 and demanded an independent probe into the events.

Shortly after the bloodshed in Andijan, which left hundreds dead, the Uzbek 
government expelled the US military from the Khanabad air base which had been 
used for flights into neighbouring Afghanistan. In retaliation, the US excluded 
Uzbekistan from its foreign military assistance programme.

Toshpolat Yoldoshev, a Tashkent-based political analyst and a former Soviet 
diplomat, says the rekindling of ties has been on the cards since a new US 
ambassador, Richard Norland, was sent to Tashkent.

“The main impetus [for the rapprochement] is coming from the West,” he told 

Yoldoshev said renewed cooperation that ignored the continuing repression and 
human rights violations in Uzbekistan would be a threat to democratic forces in 
the country.

“When it improves ties with such a blatant dictator, the US is letting it be 
known that it doesn’t care who it deals with and that it always puts practical 
interests first,” he said. 

Fallon’s January 24 visit, which came less than a month after Karimov was 
re-elected president, is not the only indication that the West is wooing 

On January 17, a day after Karimov’s inauguration, the EU Special 
Representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel, met the president and told him 
the 25-nation bloc “considers Uzbekistan a reliable partner and supports 
strengthening and expanding further cooperation”.

Last year, the EU lifted a visa ban on top Uzbek officials, thus ending the 
sanctions it imposed following the Andijan violence.

Another Tashkent-based observer, who asked to be not named, said he feared the 
West was letting itself be pushed around. 

“Uzbekistan well understands its strategic importance to Europe and the US, and 
is simply manipulating them, playing the role of blushing bride, and demanding 
an apology and gentle stroking,” he said. “And in order to return to the 
region, the West seems ready both to seek forgiveness and to stroke 
Uzbekistan’s back.”

Analysts worry that a rapprochement with Uzbekistan, considered one of the most 
authoritarian regimes in the world, may be seen in other regional states as a 
signal that democratic principles can safely be sidelined.

“Throughout the region, the US appears anxious to re-establish itself as a 
close friend to Central Asian governments”, said Acacia Shields, a New 
York-based expert on Central Asian human rights. 

“When this is done without regard to the horrendous human rights records and 
authoritarian tendencies of some of these governments, such a policy can be 
extremely damaging.”

Uzbekistan has much to gain from a thaw in relations with the West. With more 
than 60,000 service personnel, it possesses the largest armed forces in Central 
Asia, but its military equipment drastically needs updating.

Uzbekistan and the US also share a common interest in stabilising Afghanistan 
and in rooting out Islamic militants opposed to Karimov’s secular regime. 

Shields said Fallon should have used his leverage to demand that Uzbekistan 
comply with international human rights standards before offering any defence 

“Conditions should have been put on this visit, requiring that the Karimov 
government deliver real cooperation on human rights before receiving such an 
honour,” she said.


Candles make comeback in Tajikistan, where the authorities have cut the power 
to cafes, restaurants and shops in a move to save electricity. 

By Nafisa Pisarejeva in Dushanbe

In the Tajik capital Dushanbe, the sight of flickering candles casting their 
golden glow inside the city’s few working restaurants is not a sign that 
romantic dinners are again in fashion. 

They are a consequence of a government decision on January 26 to cut the 
electricity supply to places of entertainment to meet the worst power shortage 
in years. 

Since then, such establishments have closed their doors entirely, or soldiered 
on by candlelight. Those with coal-fired stoves or private generators are 
considered lucky indeed. 

For café and restaurant owners, Tajikistan’s endemic power crises are a 
nightmare. This winter the shortage of electricity has been even worse than 
usual as exceptionally cold weather has increased demand across Central Asia. 
(See IWPR reports on this: Cold Snap Wreaks Havoc on Central Asian Power, RCA 
No. 529, 31-Jan-08, and Sparks Fly as Tajiks Endure Power Cuts, RCA No. 528, 

Abdusattor, the owner of a now half-empty café, said he had been forced to lay 
off staff because his income had fallen by half. 

Evenings are normally the times when cafes make most of their money. But now 
the power cuts have driven away customers, and Abdusattor’s menu has been cut 
down to just a few hot dishes and salads. 

“Even if this is only temporary, it's still going to hit the pockets of my 
staff,” he said. “They all have five or six children, and there are women who 
are the sole breadwinners for their families.” 

Abdusattor said he would at least try to keep his doors open. Many other cafés 
and restaurants have simply shut and will not reopen until spring. 

Zarina, 34, a waitress in the café, says she hopes she is not one of the 
unlucky ones who will be sent on an involuntary vacation. 

She has two children to look after while her husband is away working in Russia. 
He does not send money home on a regular basis. 

With her small daily salary and the snacks that she and the other workers are 
allowed to take home, Zarina can just about support her family. 

It is not just cafés, restaurants and nightclubs that are suffering from the 
government decree. The restrictions also apply to shops, chemists’ shops, 
markets and public bathhouses. 

Even the street lighting has gone, plunging the country into total darkness 
after nightfall. 

The few lights visible in the evenings belong to factories, the fortunate 
owners of generators, or people who have broken the law by tapping into working 
power lines. 

Life in the dark has brought new fears for people’s safety. Sharifamo, a young 
mother in Dushanbe, is worried about her children as they make their way home 
from school in the unlit streets. 

Each evening, she goes to the bus stop near their house to meet them from 
school. Her children study in a second, afternoon shift at school and the 
schoolhouse is far from home, so they get back late. 

“It's dangerous to go out in the evening now,” she said. “Yesterday one woman 
was hit by a car; I’m scared for my kids’ lives.” 

Sharifamo added, “They should leave some street lights on till around 9 pm and 
only then turn them off”. 

Shopkeepers and trading working uneven hours are also suffering economically 
from the power cuts. 

Akram, who trades in the local flat bread, has seen his income drop markedly. 

He buys his bread wholesale from the nearest bakery and delivers it piping hot 
by car to his customers. But now the bakery has slashed production because of 
the lack of electricity, and Akram has to tell his clients he is running short 
of bread. 

Many bakeries are closed entirely. The city authorities in Dushanbe say that 
they have repeatedly urged bakers to switch to coal fires, but that their 
advice has been ignored. 

Akram complains that he was unable to supply his sick daughter with medicine 
recently because the all-night chemist’s shop which until recently had carried 
on by candlelight was now closed in the evenings. 

Some friendly neighbours managed to help Akram find the medicines he needed. 

“I wish the chemists weren’t closed at night because both adults and children 
are getting ill in this cold weather,” he said. 

Not everyone is complaining about the government’s action, however. Some 
families that had been without any power for weeks have seen their lights and 
heaters come back on after electricity was diverted away from retail businesses 
to domestic consumers. 

Avvalmo Davlatshoeva, who lives in a residential district of Dushanbe, says she 
went for three weeks without power, but for the past week the lights in her 
apartment block have been back on. 

“They did the right thing by closing these restaurants,” she said. “When we had 
no light, they were brightly lit and played loud music.” 

Meanwhile, the population watches and waits to see when the crisis will finally 
be over. 

Most of the country’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power stations that 
in turn rely on full reservoirs. But the rise in consumption over the harsh 
winter has drained the reservoirs. Energy sector representatives say the water 
in the giant Nurek reservoir, for example, has fallen to a mere six metres, a 
worryingly low level. 

Eventually, glacial and snowmelt water will start flowing into mountain rivers, 
relieving the situation. But this will not take place until March or April. 

In the meantime, there is talk of extending the current austerity regime beyond 
the initial February 10 deadline. 

That may be too late for small businessmen like Akram. “The authorities always 
get something wrong. They make these mistakes and it’s mainly ordinary people 
who suffer,” he lamented. 

Nafisa Pisarejeva is an IWPR contributor in Dushanbe. 

**** www.iwpr.net 

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 Global Conflict Prevention 
Pool of UK government and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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; Programme Director: Kumar Bekbolotov.

IWPR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT: Executive Director: Anthony Borden; 
Strategy & Assessment Director: Alan Davis; Chief Programme Officer: Mike Day.

**** www.iwpr.net 

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 Gray’s 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 © 2008 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting 

**** www.iwpr.net 

If you wish to change your subscription details or unsubscribe please go to:  

Reply via email to