WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 551, October 14, 2008
EU EASES UZBEK SANCTIONS DESPITE REPORTER'S JAILING European officials speak
of progress three days after independent journalist gets ten-year jail term.
By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek
RUSSIA TO SEEK NEIGHBOURS BACKING OVER GEORGIA Moscow to adopt softly, softly
approach to keeping neighbours on board and allaying their concerns about
recent conflict. By Mirgul Akimova in Bishkek
KAZAKS CAUTIOUS ON RUSSIA-GEORGIA DISPUTE Opinions vary as to whether Kazak
economic retreat from Georgia was result of pro-Moscow politics or pragmatism.
By Anton Dosybiev in Almaty
ELECTORAL ABUSE CLAIMS MAR KYRGYZ LOCAL POLLS Two high-profile resignations
and allegations of ballot-stuffing tarnish the latest exercise in democracy.
By Chynara Karimova in Bishkek
KYRGYZSTAN: ISLAMIC PROTEST SPARKED BY OFFICIAL INSENSITIVITY Analysts say
government needs to do more to stop Islamic radicals channelling grassroots
discontent. By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek
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EU EASES UZBEK SANCTIONS DESPITE REPORTER'S JAILING
European officials speak of progress three days after independent journalist
gets ten-year jail term.
By Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek
The European Union has eased the sanctions it imposed on Uzbekistan following
the violence in Andijan in May 2005, lifting a visa ban on senior officials but
prolonging an embargo on arms sales for another year.
Following a meeting of the EUs General Affairs and External Relations Council
on October 13, a statement was issued saying the EU welcomes the progress
achieved in Uzbekistan in the last year with regard to respect for the rule of
law and protection of human rights.
It cited as positive examples the release of human rights activist Mutabar
Tajibaeva from jail last year, legislative and judicial reforms, the abolition
of the death penalty, and the ratification of conventions against child labour.
It also hailed Tashkents willingness to discuss issues, for instance in
consultations on human rights in June and a seminar on media freedom held in
Tashkent on October 2-3. Participants invited by the EU to the latter seminar
issued a statement ahead of the sanctions review, explaining why the event
could not be viewed as evidence of improvement in the area of free speech.
At the same time, the EU said it remained seriously concerned about the
situation of human rights in some domains in Uzbekistan and urges the
authorities to implement their international obligations fully in that regard.
The EU called on the government to release all imprisoned activists, revoke
restrictions on non-government groups, cooperate with United Nations special
rapporteurs on torture and on freedom of expression, and grant accreditation to
a representative of leading rights watchdog Human Rights Watch.
The easing of sanctions came three days after a court in Nukus in the north of
Uzbekistan handed down a ten-year sentence against Solijon Abdurahmonov, an
independent journalist convicted of selling drugs. Abdurahmonov has denied
possessing or using drugs, still less selling them.
Human rights groups have in the past documented numerous cases where criminal
charges including drugs offences have been used to discredit and incarcerate
critics of the Uzbek government.
Abdurahmonovs conviction is an affront to human rights and free speech in
Uzbekistan, said Igor Vorontsov, Uzbekistan researcher for Human Rights Watch.
He often criticised local authorities, including law enforcement. It is clear
that he is being punished for his work. Once again, the Uzbek government is
showing that it will not tolerate dissent.
The EU imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan in November 2005 after President Islam
Karimov refused requests for an independent international inquiry into events
in Andijan in May 13, in which governmental troops fired into a crowd of
Officials said 189 people were killed, but some human rights groups put the
number of dead closer to 800.
The EU sanctions included an embargo on arms sales to Uzbekistan and a visa ban
on senior officials believed to have played a role in ordering the use of
After Andijan, Uzbekistans relations with the West cooled dramatically. As
well as refusing to allow an independent inquiry, the government clamped down
on human rights activists and closed down the local offices of international
media and non-government organisations.
Observers believe that Uzbekistan is now keen to send out a signal that it
wants to put the Andijan issue behind it in relations with the international
A source close to the government says President Islam Karimov has found it
increasing difficult to deal with the Andijan issue when it comes up at
high-level meetings. Aware that he cannot ignore it, Karimov takes the
initiative and tries to frame the violence as a crackdown on extremists, the
Tashpulat Yoldashev, a political analyst now living in exile, said, Karimov is
trying to win the trust of Western countries so that relations with them can be
restored to the previous level.
Analysts point out to a number of steps the government has made in the past few
months such as abolishing the death penalty; drafting an action plan to
eliminate child labour a major problem in the cotton industry in recent
years; the creation in June of a research centre to look at ways of making the
judicial system more independent; and several improvements to judicial
procedure such as introducing the principle of habeas corpus, better defence
rules, and some softer penalties.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Foreign
Minister Vladimir Norov presented these initiatives as proof of consistent
steps to improve the human rights situation.
Some analysts argue that the Uzbek leadership has been driven to seek a
rapprochement with the international community because domestic economic
conditions are deteriorating.
Yoldashev notes that the dispute over Andijan had a disruptive effect on
Uzbekistans external relationships, and says the economy is now suffocating
from an absence of foreign investment and a marked decline in exports of
minerals, gas and agriculture produce.
The most urgent issue is exporting Uzbek cotton which accounts for the bulk of
countrys hard currency earnings and places the country in the top three world
exporters of this commodity.
Analysts say the growing boycott of Uzbek cotton by leading western retailers
and importers, over the issue of child labour, has put a lot of pressure on
Tashkent. In September, Wal-Mart, the worlds largest retailer, joined the
boycott and asked its suppliers not to use cotton from Uzbekistan.
A coalition representing major US retailers and cotton importers, including
Wal-Mart, was set up to look into the issue, and in August it warned the Uzbek
government that the practice of using child labour must stop.
According to Yoldashev, cotton is now piling up at the [collection]
Nadezhda Ataeva, head of the Paris-based Human Rights in Central Asia
Association, pointed out, The problem of cotton is acute for the authorities.
Karimov understands that if a general boycott is imposed, the leadership will
not be able to feed people and secure a living wage.
A businessman in Uzbekistan who asked to remain anonymous said the authorities
had realised the extent to which isolation was constricting economic potential,
and noted that the country was currently suffering from high food and fuel
The price of bread price was raised again on October 6, and there are long
queues for cottonseed [cooking] oil in some shops, he said. Two weeks ago,
petrol prices went up. Thats a sign of an economy falling apart at the seams
we will not be able to survive in isolation.
Inga Sikorskaya is an IWPR editor in Bishkek.
RUSSIA TO SEEK NEIGHBOURS BACKING OVER GEORGIA
Moscow to adopt softly, softly approach to keeping neighbours on board and
allaying their concerns about recent conflict.
By Mirgul Akimova in Bishkek
A meeting of former Soviet states in Bishkek presents Moscow with an
opportunity to shore up support among its traditional allies following its
conflict with Georgia. However, persuading them to back Russia in its growing
confrontation with the West is not going to be easy, analysts say.
The Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS, is holding a summit in the Kyrgyz
capital on October 9 and 10. On the second day, heads of states that are
members of the CISs economic grouping, the Eurasian Economic Community or
EurAsEC for short, were scheduled to hold a separate meeting.
While the CIS includes all the states of the former Soviet Union bar the three
Baltic countries, with Turkmenistan holding only associate member status,
EurAsEC is a narrower grouping comprising the Russians and Belarusians and, in
Central Asia, the Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks.
These meetings will be followed by a meeting between leaders of the Central
The agenda for the three meetings covers a wide range of issues including
economic cooperation as well as water, energy and security.
The CIS summit is the first since Russias short war with Georgia in August,
which resulted in Moscow formally recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia as
independent from Tbilisi. One immediate consequence of the war that the meeting
has to address is Georgias announcement that it is withdrawing from the CIS.
When CIS foreign ministers met on day one of the Bishkek summit, two
controversial issues came up first, Russias desire to get other members to
recognise the two breakaway republics; and second, the possibility that in
light of its deteriorating relationship with the West Moscow might pressure
Kyrgyzstan to close an airbase close to the capital used by the United States
Sergey Lebedev, who chairs the CISs executive committee, told reporters that
the independence issue was not on the agenda. Instead, he said, each member
state must decide for itself how it would handle the issue.
No collective decision on this matter has been taken, and as far as I know
none will be taken, he said.
Lebedevs comments reflected the challenge that Moscow will face as it tries to
win over its neighbours on Caucasus conflict. With the exception of Kazakstan,
none of the normally loyal Central Asian states has openly backed Russias
military intervention in Georgia. And even the Kazaks have not gone as far as
recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Their cautious stance may be partly due to a reluctance to join Moscow in open
confrontation with the West, and in part because these leaderships were taken
aback by the way Russia flexed its muscles in a neighbouring state.
When Central Asia leaders joined their Russian and Chinese counterparts for a
meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in August, they withheld full
backing for Moscows actions. The final resolution they issued urged all sides
to resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiations, and underlined their
commitment to upholding the territorial integrity of states a clear allusion
to Moscow granting recognition to two territories still claimed by Georgia.
(See Moscow Fails to Win Over Regional Allies, RCA No. 549, 05-Sep-08.)
On the second issue, the US base at Manas airport, Russian deputy foreign
minister Andrei Denisov told the Interfax news agency on October 9 that Moscow
would not pressure Bishkek to sever its security ties with the West.
The US military presence in Central Asia lies within the competence of the
sovereign countries, he said.
Denisov added, however, that Moscow would countenance a continued American
military presence in Kyrgyzstan only if its purpose was to support operations
in Afghanistan its original aim and not to project US power to the
detriment of other regional players.
His carefully nuanced remarks appeared to be designed to indicate where
Moscows red lines lie without actually telling the Kyrgyz what to do.
According to Orozbek Moldaliev, a political analyst in Kyrgyzstan, it is a
question of priorities. Right now, what is more important for Moscow is not
getting rid of the airbase, but for Bishkek to recognise South Ossetia and
Central Asian expert Daniil Kislov agrees that Moscow is not going to make a
big issue out of the US airbase, although its own plans in Central Asia
undoubtedly do not envisage a strong American presence there.
Pointing out that Russia has its own military airbase in Kyrgyzstan only a few
kilometres from the American one, Kislov said Moscow had been shocked by the
arrival of NATO warships in the Black Sea during the recent conflict, and by
their proximity to Russian naval vessels.
Many analysts believe that pressing for the recognition of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia is part of a broader attempt by Russia to recruit support as it
positions itself as a counterbalance to Washington.
Russia is trying to restore
its influence in the ex-Soviet republics, said
Elmira Nogoibaeva, head of the Polis Asia think-tank. It needs new allies, a
new political protectorate consisting of post-Soviet countries on which it can
count in its new political confrontation with the West.
Another analyst, Mars Sariev, argues that Moscow will seek to project its
influence in the region through persuasion rather than intimidation.
Russia will build a constructive dialogue with CIS countries and pursue soft
diplomacy, he said.
Noting that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been touring Russias neighbours
with pledges of investment and loans, Sariev describes this as Moscows new
In light of Kazakstans recent statement that it wouldnt recognise South
Ossetia, Russia is going to gently reel in the CIS states by means of
investment projects, he said.
Mirgul Akimova is the pseudonym of a journalist in Kyrgyzstan.
Reporting Central Asia
KAZAKS CAUTIOUS ON RUSSIA-GEORGIA DISPUTE
Opinions vary as to whether Kazak economic retreat from Georgia was result of
pro-Moscow politics or pragmatism.
By Anton Dosybiev in Almaty
In the wake of the recent Russian-Georgian conflict, Kazakstan has been
steering a cautious diplomatic path between supporting its traditional ally
Russia and maintaining good relations with western states.
While Kazakstan has pulled out of a number of economic contracts with Georgia,
analysts note that officials have made much play of their governments policy
of maintaining diverse or multi-vector political relationships so as not to
be forced to come down on one side or the other.
Comments made by Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin during an October 5 press
conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Astana are a prime
example of this balancing act.
It's very important that relations with the United States and Russia are
good,'' said Tazhin. Russia is our strategic partner, he said, adding that
the relationship with Washington was stable and strategic.
Unlike other Central Asian leaders, Kazak president Nursultan Nazarbaev
publicly backed Moscow following its military incursion into Georgia. (For the
muted reaction from the August 28 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organisation, see Moscow Fails to Win Over Regional Allies, RCA No. 549,
Kazakstan did not, however, follow Russias example in recognising the
independence of the two breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, on
Foreign Minister Tazhin explained that his country believed in maintaining the
territorial integrity of sovereign states, the main principle of the
international law. Speaking at a meeting hosted by a Washington-based think
tank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on October 2, he insisted
that double standards must not be applied.
We did not recognise Kosovo, and we did not recognise Abkhazia and South
Ossetia, he explained.
Local analysts point out that Moscows use of military force in a neighbouring
state, and its argument that it had the right to intervene on behalf of the
many South Ossetians who had taken out Russian citizenship, sets an alarming
precedent for the other former Soviet states. Kazakstan, for example, has a
substantial Russian minority concentrated in the north of the country.
Of course the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States are
dependent on Russia politically and economically, said Sergey Duvanov, a
political analyst in Kazakstan. I think that political elites in these
countries are facing legitimate questions about whether Russian could present a
potential threat to them. We understand that Ukraine and its [substantially
Russian] eastern regions and Crimea are next in line. After that, there might
well be questions about northern Kazakhstan why not?
Duvanov said the precedent had been set, although whether Moscow chose to use
it would depend on how the political situation develops and how the rulers of
these countries behave. Everyone has now seen how the mechanism for
pressuring them works in reality, he continued. It used to be economic forms
[of pressure], but now its about protecting their [Russian] citizens in
neighbouring states. Im not saying this is going to happen; I am saying this
factor is now a reality.
If Kazakstan sought a middle way on the diplomatic front, it took more decisive
action on economic matters, withdrawing from investment projects including
plans to build a grain terminal in the port city of Poti and an oil refinery in
Batumi, further south on the Black Sea coast.
Kazakstan is Georgias biggest investor after the United States, and despite
its denials, these project cancellations have been seen by some analysts as
tacit support for Moscows economic boycott of the Caucasian state.
A representative of the state oil and gas company Kazmunaigaz, who asked to
remain anonymous, told IWPR, The decision not to build a refinery in Batumi
has nothing to do with politics; it is a purely economic decision that has to
do with the purchase of a similar plant in Romania.
In a related move, the Kazak authorities halted oil supplies to the Baku-Ceyhan
pipeline, the only route by which Caspian crude can reach western markets
without going through Russia. After Kazak oil crossed the Caspian by tanker, it
entered a pipeline running from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia. The
Kazmunaigaz representative noted that the route was shut down for 15 days
because of the conflict.
The Kazmunaigaz official said a round of talks in late September resulted in a
proposal from Moscow that the oil should be diverted to pipelines running
across Russian territory, already the main route for Kazakstans crude exports.
Once again, it was hard to disentangle politics from the Kazaks natural
reluctance to operate in a high-risk environment in which their economic
interests might suffer.
I see it as a desire to sit between two stools, said Duvanov. On the one
hand, Kazakstan strikes a compromise and shows Russia its ready to cooperate
on an economic boycott in Georgia, while on the other, it refrains from making
critical remarks about what happened in Georgia.
Other observers, however, argue that Kazakstans disengagement from Georgia
were dictated by economic interest alone.
Putting money into Georgia, in the state that its currently in, is a fairly
risky business, said Anton Morozov of the Kazakstan Institute for Strategic
Studies. Of course Kazakstan has lost out by turning down the [grain] terminal
and refinery construction work. But if we were to invest money in them right
now, its uncertain how much we might lose in the future,
Political scientist Viktor Kovtunovsky predicted that Kazakstans position
might change again in future.
The serious outflow of investment from Georgia was due to political
instability, he said. If the situation in Georgia becomes [more] favourable,
investments will come pouring back in.
Kovtunovsky added that it was important for the Georgians not to misread
Kazakstans intentions, as any reciprocal action they took might derail future
economic cooperation between the two states.
Anton Dosybiev is an IWPR-trained journalist in Kazakstan.
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION REARS HEAD OVER VIDEO SCANDAL
Election officials claims of intimidation taken up as an opposition cause.
By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek
The resignation of Kyrgyzstans election chief last month came as an unexpected
gift for the countrys opposition parties, which attempted to capitalise on the
controversy after months of apparent drift.
However, Klara Kabilova, chair of the Central Electoral Commission, has since
distanced herself from the opposition, saying she refuses to be part of their
political agenda. One local analyst argues that the real confrontation going on
behind the scenes is not between opposition and government, but between rival
factions in the ruling elite.
On September 26, a recorded statement by Kabilova was made public; in it she
claimed she had been unfairly pressured after she asked for the release of a
candidate for the October 5 local elections, currently in police custody. In
the video recording, she said she was visited by Maxim Bakiev, the son of
Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev, who employed outrageous pressure and
obscene insults to intimidate her.
Maxim Bakiev, a prominent local businessman, has denied the claims outright,
saying he never even contacted Kabilova. After prosecutors questioned him about
the case, he gave an interview to the Bishkek Press Club on September 30 at
which he said, I am certain that all these intrigues surrounding the video
recording in which Im mentioned are designed merely to sully the presidents
The main opposition parties seized on the issue, airing the video of Kabilovas
statement at a September 26 press conference.
One party, Ak Shumkar, said that in view of Kabilovas allegations, the results
of the parliamentary election held last December should be cancelled on the
grounds that they were unfair. It also wants all the CECs members to step
The December election was won by Ak Jol, a party set up only two months before
the polls, and even the leading opposition party, Ata Meken, failed to win a
single seat. Opposition groups are concerned that ten months on, the CEC has
yet to publish a detailed breakdown of the ballot results.
The opposition press conference had swift repercussions within a few hours,
President Bakiev sacked Kabilova, while her colleagues in the CEC lined up to
accuse her of seeking to escape liability for any procedural abuses committed
while she was in office.
Her interim replacement, Damir Lisovsky, said, We CEC members are extremely
indignant at the irresponsible and provocative statement made by Klara
Kabilova. Her lack of professionalism has placed the local council elections in
jeopardy. Kabilovas statement is an attempt to shirk responsibility.
Opposition leaders claim that Kabilova went into hiding on September 20, made
the tape five days later, and later fled the country after unsuccessfully
seeking protection from the National Security Service. The former elections
chief has not herself confirmed this sequence of events, although it is clear
she is now in Moscow.
Ata Meken leader Omurbek Tekebaev suggested that more revelations might be on
the way. She fears for her life but shes ready to fight, he said of
Kabilova. Its possible that in the near future she will make other statements
regarding last years parliamentary election.
The Kyrgyz opposition has been notably silent this year, in contrast to the
mass demonstrations it had staged on several occasions since the March 2005
revolution that brought President Bakiev and his administration to power. Many
analysts believed the oppositions failure to achieve significant victories
through protest actions, coupled with its effective exclusion from the
legislature in last Decembers polls, had left it with no real sense of
Now the Kabilova controversy has given the opposition a real issue to get its
After the early parliamentary election, the opposition and specifically Ata
Meken were pushed into the background, political commentator Toktogul
Kakchekeev told IWPR. Kabilovas statement has given the opposition carte
blanche to contest the election results in a real way. Even though the Kyrgyz
judicial system is subservient [to government] , the opposition will be able to
use this statement during the presidential election in two years time. It
could be their ace card.
Dinara Oshurakhunova, who heads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society,
hopes Kabilova will reveal all about past violations of election procedure.
She must tell the truth about the results of the 2007 parliamentary election.
Publication of these facts would ultimately help to prove that the current
[legislative] body is illegitimate, she said.
Meanwhile, the authorities and their allies have moved to limit the damage and
prevent the opposition from exploiting the case.
Kabay Karabekov of the pro-presidential Ak Jol party said Maxim Bakiev had no
reason to intimidate the CEC head, especially since the October elections were
merely for local councils and would not reshape the political landscape.
The prosecution service appears to have shifted the focus of its investigation,
launched a day after the opposition showed the Kabilova video. Having begun by
looking into a possible case of interference in the electoral process and
questioning most of the CECs members as well as Maxim Bakiev, it now seems to
have turned its attention to the question of how the opposition got hold of the
offending video. Opposition leaders who attended the press conference were
summoned for questioning on October 2.
As chief prosecutor Elmurza Satybaldiev put it, it is important for the
investigation to recreate the sequence of events that preceded Klara Kabilovas
Cholpon Jakypova of the legal aid group Adilet told the 24.kg news agency that
investigating prosecutors were interested not in the content of the former CEC
chiefs statement but in how the recording reached the opposition, in other
words who it came from and who gave permission to air it.
In Moscow, Kabilova sought to distance herself from opposition activists. After
speaking to her by phone, Kyrgyzstans human rights ombudsman Tursunbek Akun
told 24.kg that the ex-CEC head confirmed the authenticity of the videotape but
that she had intended her statement for the public, not the opposition and
was astounded that it had ended up in the hands of opposition leaders.
She insisted, said Akun, that she has nothing in common with opponents of the
One local analyst believes the controversy is not about fair elections or about
opposition-government relations. According to Mars Sariev, There are two
groupings around the president one comprising his son Maxim Bakiev and
presidential administration chief Medet Sadyrkulov, and the other including his
brother Janysh Bakiev and others. Kabilova is said to be close to the latter
Effectively what we have is a struggle for resources going on around the
president, added Sariev.
To complicate matters, Sariev said the Maxim Bakiev/Sadyrkulov faction has won
backing from movers and shakers in the north of Kyrgyzstan, while the other
group derives its power from the south. In a country where regionalism plays an
important part in politics, the Bakiev administration has traditionally been
associated with southern Kyrgyzstan.
To prevent this factional rivalry opening up the regional divide, President
Bakiev must balance between these groups and work in the interests of the
entire republic, not just the south.
In an interview he gave during the October 5 local elections, the president
responded to allegations that he was under the influence of powerful elite
Its very difficult to influence me pressuring the president is a thankless
task, he said. Individuals or groups that try to do so find themselves in an
awkward position. I always listen to what those around me say, but I take the
For the moment, it looks as though the president will ride this crisis out.
In the interview, he speculated that Kabilova had fallen prey to games played
by politicians and insisted that last years election was fair.
Some analysts are predicting that Bakiev will attempt to co-opt some of his
opponents into government, as he has done in the past. It would make sense for
him to consolidate his position politically, they say, as he has some serious
problems to cope with in the real world.
Winter is on the way, and some forecasters are predicting a repeat of last
years exceptionally harsh weather. Kyrgyzstan is already experiencing power
cuts because it is unable to generate enough electricity, and high world fuel
prices are making imports prohibitively expensive.
Yrys Kadykeev is an IWPR-trained journalist in Bishkek. Aida Kasymalieva,
IWPRs editor for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan, contributed additional reporting.
ELECTORAL ABUSE CLAIMS MAR KYRGYZ LOCAL POLLS
Two high-profile resignations and allegations of ballot-stuffing tarnish the
latest exercise in democracy.
By Chynara Karimova in Bishkek
Opposition parties and civil rights activists in Kyrgyzstan have disputed
official claims that the October 5 local elections were a success, saying they
observed so many breaches of procedure that the ballot counts as a setback for
The arguments come as the departure of Kyrgyzstans election chief revived
allegations that last Decembers parliamentary election won outright by the
pro-president Ak Jol party were less than fair. Klara Kabilova, chair of the
Central Electoral Commission, CEC, is now in self-imposed exile in Moscow after
claiming she was intimidated by the son of President Kurmanbek Bakiev. (See
Kyrgyz Opposition Rears Head Over Video Scandal, RCA No. 551, 08-Oct-08)
The CEC said turnout was 64 per cent for the nationwide elections to 7,647
seats on municipal and rural councils, for which more than 15,000 candidates
were competing. The vast majority stood as independents, with only about 850
candidates formally nominated by Kyrgyzstans political parties. Detailed
results were not available when this report was published, but early signs were
that Ak Jol had done well again, with its opposition rivals Ak Shumkar and Ata
Meken getting few seats.
Among the problems reported by election observers were people finding their
names missing from the electoral roll; voters being allowed into the polls
without showing ID; busing people in en masse; multiple voting; the alteration
of ballot papers; and plain bribery.
The most basic violation is that many people couldnt find their names on the
electoral registers, said Dinara Oshurakhunova of the Coalition for Democracy
and Civil Society, a pressure group. She noted that in some cases, additional
voter rolls were drawn up, of dubious legality.
Maksat Joldoshbekov from the Aliza Ene Charity Fund, who served as an election
monitor, described what looked like a clear case of people being corralled in
to vote when they were not on the electoral roll in the capital Bishkek.
There was a building site near the polling station where some young men from a
village [elsewhere] were working, he said. Some people brought them in, they
were registered and they voted. We wrote a formal complaint about the case.
Omurbek Tekebaev, leader of the Ata Meken party, said the authorities did
nothing to stop open attempts to buy votes. In Bazar-Korgon, my home in the
south of the country, an Ata Meken member brought a court action against a
school principal and another candidate, who entertained voters with food one
day before the elections. The judge advised them to reconcile with each other,
and when our candidate refused to do so, he lost his case, said Tekebaev. I
want to stress that this time round, vote-buying has happened on a massive
Many observers claimed that election officials deployed to local polling
stations were untrained and vulnerable to manipulation.
The CEC has spent vast sums of money on training these people. But it turns
out they are untrained and dont even know how to fill in an election return,
said Elena Voronina, head of the Interbilim non-government group. These
elections were accompanied by gross violations on a massive scale, just as
happened during last year [parliamentary] election.
Many of the temporary staff the CEC hires at election time are teachers. One
headmistress who took part, but did not want to be named, told IWPR, I was
amazed at the deftness of the tricks they performed. I felt sorry for the
observers doing a pointless job. Commission officials deliberately sign reports
using a pencil to create confusion, and fail to stamp the returns.
She claimed that election staff were notified in advance about which candidates
were to win, and they made sure this influenced the count.
The names of the golden four were known from the morning the four
candidates who were to win in the constituency. This happened everywhere, she
Some NGO representatives said the absence of international observers made the
electoral process less transparent.
International relations expert Askarbek Mambetaliev distributed a statement
suggesting the failure to bring in foreign election monitors would look bad for
Kyrgyzstans international image.
The CEC itself should have an interest in having international observers
participate so as to increase voter confidence, he said in the statement.
However, a senior CEC official, Kudaybergen Bazarbaev, responded, Theres no
hidden political agenda. Its just a matter of procedure. We received
applications from international observers too late.
In the face of mounting criticism, the CEC admitted that there had been a few
minor problems but insisted there was nothing serious. As of October 9, it said
it had received only 72 complaints and was looking into 46 of them
The CECs rebuffals of alleged abuses were phrased in unusually fierce
language. Dismissing allegations made by the Taza Shailoo election monitoring
group, the CECs new head Damir Lisovsky said, Anything just to make a
complaint. I dont even know how to evaluate these reports.
In a written statement, the CEC entered political territory by attacking
opposition parties for claiming the ballot was unfair, describing such claims
as false, invented and entirely unfounded.
The position set out in the media by a number of opposition groupings is
designed to destabilise the situation, it went on. This kind of statement
should be regarded as defamatory.
As the opposition Ata Meken made plans to contest the results for Bishkek city
council, another party this time a historically pro-government one
complained of major ballot-rigging.
In an interview for RFE/RL on October 8, Jany Kyrgyzstans secretary general
Ismail Isakov alleged that government resources were deployed to shape the
desired election outcome.
Irregularities during the count have caused anger and outrage among citizens,
What is remarkable about Isakovs criticisms is that they came from someone
serving as secretary of the national Security Council, a key decision-making
body in Kyrgyzstan.
On October 10, Isakov submitted his resignation from the council, citing
disagreements with President Kurmanbek Bakievs domestic, foreign and personnel
Analysts note that Jany Kyrgyzstan, one of the older parties which counts many
senior figures among its members, has an axe to grind against the newcomer Ak
Jol, which President Bakiev set up only two months before it swept the board in
the December 2007 election.
In the interview, Isakov claimed that Ak Jol does not enjoy wide voter support,
while in a statement on October 7, Jany Kyrgyzstan leaders blamed the
government and Ak Jol for the current economic crisis, in which the whole
country is suffering periodic power-cuts, and threatened to stage protests in
November if things did not improve.
Chynara Karimova is an IWPR-trained journalist in Kyrgyzstan.
KYRGYZSTAN: ISLAMIC PROTEST SPARKED BY OFFICIAL INSENSITIVITY
Analysts say government needs to do more to stop Islamic radicals channelling
By Yrys Kadykeev in Bishkek
The authorities in Kyrgyzstan have dealt with an Islamic protest in the south
of the country by arresting many of the participants. However, they have also
recognised that local government was at fault for ignoring legitimate concerns
expressed by the Muslim community.
The unrest broke out in the town of Nookat on October 1, when Muslims in
Kyrgyzstan marked Eid al Fitr known locally as Orozo Ait the festival that
marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The trouble began when a group
of young men and adolescents gathered outside the local government offices in
Nookat to complain about a decision not to arrange an Eid celebration in the
A local policeman told IWPR that the protesters numbered over 1,000, although
other accounts put the figure at about 60.
Police and local officials moved in, first offering a sports stadium as an
alternative venue for the celebration. However, the demonstrators refused to
back down and, according to officials, began throwing stones at police and
smashing windows and doors in the local government building. Five policemen
The crowd was eventually dispersed by riot police bused in from the regional
centre Osh, who used tear gas to drive protestors away.
Seven protestors were arrested on the spot, and more alleged participants were
picked up later. On October 13, the State Committee for National Security
announced that 32 people were in custody.
It said all of those detained were active members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic
group banned in Kyrgyzstan. Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group of Middle Eastern origin,
appeared in Central Asia in the Nineties and advocates the replacement of the
regions secular governments by an Islamic state. It insists its methods are
non-violent, although regional governments have accused it of being behind a
number of attacks.
In Kyrgyzstan, the group is particularly active in the south of the country,
where Islamic observance has traditionally been stronger, and in recent years
it has become adept at publicising itself by supporting local communities with
grievances. See Islamic Group Quietly Builds Support in Kyrgyzstan, RCA No.
Kanybek Osmonaliev, director of the State Agency for Religious Affairs, took a
tough line on the demonstrators and their motives.
Attacking the Nookat district administration building by throwing stones is a
direct challenge by destructive elements, he said. The Muftiate [official
Muslim governing body] says they have nothing in common with Islam.
At the same time, the Kyrgyz authorities have acknowledged that local officials
in Nookat behaved insensitively towards repeated requests to mark one of the
key dates on the Muslim calendar, thus opening the way for Hizb ut-Tahrir to
get involved in protest actions.
After the incident, President Kurmanbek Bakiev sacked Nookat district chief
Deputy Interior Minister Jenish Jakipov told journalists, Representatives of
the Muslim community had asked the local administration in advance for
permission to hold this [Eid celebration] event. But local government did not
treat their request with the seriousness and respect it deserved, and
consequently no solution was found.
Representatives of the extremist religious party Hizb ut-Tahrir exploited the
popular dissatisfaction and incited young people to illegal acts.
The head of the Kylym Shamy human rights group, Aziza Abdirasulova, agrees that
local government blundered.
The Muslims in Nookat have twice approached the district government chief with
a request to allocate a venue for celebrations, she said. People took it
badly when they were ignored. The fact that neither the governor nor his
deputies reached an agreement with local people, and did not offer them
alternative venues ahead of time, tells me that it was they who provoked this
Some observers caution against dismissing the protestors as religious
To say unequivocally that all the demonstrators were Hizb ut-Tahrir members or
radial Islamists would not be correct, said Miroslav Niazov, a former
government official now active in politics.
Niazov believes that support for Hizb ut Tahrir in Kyrgyzstan is growing not
because people espouse radical ideologies, but because they are profoundly
unhappy with government policies and lack of responsiveness.
Against a backdrop of poverty, corruption and diminishing confidence in the
authorities, Hizb ut-Tahrir members have increased their engagement with the
population through social projects such as free distribution of food and mass
action, said Kadyr Malikov, an academic who specialises in Islamic studies.
According to Malikov, the government and its allies need to tackle Hizb
ut-Tahrir head on by addressing the same issues that it highlights among them
poverty and setting out arguments to counter its extreme views.
Malikov said influential Muslim religious leaders had a large role to play in
changing popular attitudes to Hizb ut-Tahrir. They must do more than talk, he
said, recommending instead practical grassroots work to tackle poverty,
supported by local government.
This conflict [in Nookat] is the first serious alarm-bell signalling a need to
change the strategy and methods for countering Hizb ut-Tahrir, he said.
Yrys Kadykeev is a pseudonym used by a journalist in Kyrgyzstan.
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