WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 575, May 2, 2009
KYRGYZSTAN: COMMUNAL CLASH ESCALATES INTO POLITICAL ROW A confrontation
between different ethnic communities has blown up into a dispute among
national-level officials and politicians. By Anara Yusupova and Ayday Tokonova
in Bishkek, and Beksultan Sadyrkulov in Petrovka
FAINT PRAISE FOR TAJIK CRISIS PLAN Analysts warn that plans to use tax cuts to
boost manufacturing are over-optimistic. By Farzona Abdulqaisova in Dushanbe
KAZAK OPPOSITION PARTIES CONSIDER MERGER Four main parties have agreed
tactical alliance, but underlying differences make complete union look
unlikely. By Elmira Gabidullina in Almaty
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KYRGYZSTAN: COMMUNAL CLASH ESCALATES INTO POLITICAL ROW
A confrontation between different ethnic communities has blown up into a
dispute among national-level officials and politicians.
By Anara Yusupova and Ayday Tokonova in Bishkek, and Beksultan Sadyrkulov in
A flare-up of ethnic violence in a village in northern Kyrgyzstan which got out
of hand has had reverberations well beyond local community level, with central
government and the opposition hurling accusations at one another over the
Around 200 people were involved in clashes on April 26 as local Kyrgyz and
Russians fought with Kurds from the same village, Petrovka. The former were
demanding that a Kurdish man accused of raping a four-year-old girl should be
handed over to them.
Several people being stabbed and two people received gunshot wounds. The
windows of more than a dozen houses were smashed and several cars destroyed.
Police arrested more than 90 people they said took part in the rioting.
The dispute took on an ethnic colouring as Russians and Kyrgyz called for the
500-strong Kurdish community to leave the village within 24 hours.
The Kurds moved into the village, in the Chu region 50 kilometres from the
capital Bishkek, a few years ago. They are part of a community of some 11,000
scattered across Central Asia after the group was deported wholesale from the
south Caucasus in 1944 on Stalins orders.
This case bears a number of similarities with a clash in southern Kazakstan in
2007, in which Kurds were blamed en masse for a crime allegedly committed by
one individual. (See Kazakstan: Ethnic Clash a Worrying Sign, RCA No. 517,
Residents of Petrovka accuse local police of indirectly causing the trouble by
failing to handle the original rape claim properly.
When news of the assault on a child first emerged, villagers held a meeting to
air their concerns, in particular that police were effectively ignoring the
case. Some told IWPR they had heard that police were paid off to hush the
That was precisely what infuriated people. Does that mean no one can protect
our rights? said local resident Japar.
The head of the Kyrgyz interior ministrys press service, Bakyt Seyitov,
confirmed to IWPR that the disturbances were provoked by an alleged rape on
April 7, of which a 25 year-old-man has been accused.
Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiev insists police did respond to the
complaint. In remarks quoted by the 24.kg news agency, he said his men
established the identity of the suspect and launched a search after failing to
find him at home.
When Kongantievs deputy Talantbek Isaev briefed the Kyrgyz parliament on April
29, he said the suspect had now been detained by locals and handed over to the
Isaev noted that the alleged crime was reported ten days after it took place.
The dispute has now widened well beyond the individual crime allegation in
question. Locals are now accusing police of using excessive force to quell the
unrest, and anti-Kurdish sentiment is rife.
My wife went out into the street to see what was going on after she heard loud
noises, said villager called Akjol. At that moment, police armed with batons
and shields took her away. I dont know who to turn to. If I go to the police,
Im afraid they will detain me too.
The day after the violence, several hundred Petrovka resident blocked
Kyrgyzstans main arterial highway leading from Bishkek to Osh in the south.
They were demanding the release of detained relatives, punishment for the
suspect, and an investigation into the death of the four-year-olds
The woman reportedly hanged herself after reporting the alleged rape and
becoming disillusioned with the lack of results.
Some of these demands were met on April 30, when the Kyrgyz prosecutor
generals office reported that the grandmothers death was to be investigated,
and that a separate case had been opened with regard to police who, it is
claimed, committed offences including forgery while handling the rape
Kurdish community representatives are fearful that indiscriminate hostility to
them will spread.
Ibrahim Nadirov, a leader of the Association of Kurds of Kyrgyzstan, said a
Kurdish family in a different village came under attack on April 29 and had
windows in their home broken.
Residents of the village of Petrovka are saying the Kurds should be evicted,
he said, in remarks quoted by the 24.kg news agency. But where would we go?
One family tried to move to Sokoluk district, but the people there held a
meeting at which the told them not to show their faces and pledged to destroy
all Kurdish homes.
Meanwhile, national-level politicians are arguing about who did what to resolve
or incite this local conflagration.
Central government has blamed local officials, and the Moskovsky district
administration chief, the district police chief and the district prosecutor
have all been sacked.
Meeting the chief prosecutor and the interior minister, President Kurmanbek
Bakiev said, It is not the outraged people, to whom the local administration
denied justice, who are to blame. The fault lies with the heartless bureaucrats
who ignored [the incident] and tried to cover it up.
Raisa Sidorenko, a member of parliament with the governing Ak Jol party, took
the same view, saying that if local government, police and prosecution
officials had acted in a legal and timely matter, the pogroms in Petrovka
would have been avoided.
The opposition is now embroiled in the aftermath of the violence.
Green Party leader Erkin Bulekbaev visited Petrovka the day following the
unrest, and was arrested together with opposition activist Sapar Argymbaev and
two local people. Bulekbaev and Argymbaev were charged with the offence of
organising disturbances, and were sentenced to two months imprisonment. The two
others, who are believed to belong to the opposition party Ata Meken, were
Interior Minister Kongantiev has turned on the opposition, saying it was aware
that there was going to be trouble, and accusing members of inciting this
outbreak of ethnic violence.
The investigation has indisputable evidence that the mass unrest was provoked
deliberately, said the minister. There is video footage showing a man calling
on villagers to give the Kurds 24 hours to pack up and leave the country.
Standing in the middle of a crowd, he urges people to attack Kurds homes. Its
obvious that calls like this made in a crowd of emotionally charged people have
led to the pogrom.
The ministers claims have turned a story about a local clash and allegations
of police culpability into a full-scale political battle at national level,
just three months before Kyrgyzstan goes into a presidential election.
The main opposition bloc, the United Peoples Movement, UPM, promptly announced
that it was suing Kongantiev for slander.
In the same statement the UPM issued counter-allegations - that the
disturbances were caused by police attempting to cover up a heinous crime,
and by local government officials who failed to address peoples needs and
Bakyt Beshimov, who heads the opposition Social Democrats in parliament,
pointed the finger of blame at central government.
It is the local administration that is being blamed, but in a situation where
the state authorities are far removed from the real problems facing people and
are making no attempt to respond to citizens day-today requests, there could
be many Petrovkas to come in Kyrgyzstan.
Three different enquiries are to be launched into what happened in Petrovka
one by the Ak Jol party, another by a public committee including local
officials, and a third by Kyrgyzstans human rights ombudsman.
Anara Yusupova, Ayday Tokonova, and Beksultan Sadyrkulov are pseudonyms for
journalists in Kyrgyzstan.
FAINT PRAISE FOR TAJIK CRISIS PLAN
Analysts warn that plans to use tax cuts to boost manufacturing are
By Farzona Abdulqaisova in Dushanbe
Tajikistans government has finally announced how it plans to counter the
multiple effects of global economic crisis, but analysts worry that its
analysis of the problems and the cure it prescribes are unrealistic.
President Imomali Rahmon gave details of the anti-crisis action plan in an
address to parliament on April 15, saying it had actually been operating for
The basic approach is to encourage local producers by cutting interest rates
and attracting investment. The president also described how the government
budget would be kept afloat by trimming non-essential expenditure and financing
much of the rest with loans from international lenders.
Although the budget is being revised downwards in light of first-quarter
results, Rahmonov gave a firm pledge that spending on public sector wages and
benefits, hospitals, schools and the like would not be touched.
The Tajik leader painted a grim picture of Tajikistans performance to date
this year. The economy grew by 3.5 per cent in January-March, he said, which
suggested that overall growth this year would be slower than anticipated.
The IMFs latest forecast, published on April 30, suggests the Tajik economy
will grow by two per cent this year, which compares badly with figures of just
under eight per cent achieved in both 2008 and 2007.
The president noted that foreign-currency receipts from Tajikistans key export
commodities aluminium and cotton had taken a major hit, with world prices
tumbling by between 30 and 50 per cent.
This has already resulted in lost revenues for central government. Payments
from aluminium and cotton exports account for a hefty proportion of budget
inflows last years budget, for example, was based on expectations that 17
per cent of total revenue would come from the former and ten per cent from the
Although these effects started being felt late last year, Rahmon said overall
revenues really took a hit in the first quarter of 2009, when the government
received 14 per cent less money than it had planned for.
The finance ministry has now cut its original 1.7 billion US dollar spending
plan by 130 million.
That will be achieved by trimming overheads and non-essential business trips in
the public sector, and by holding off on repair work, new purchases and
The cuts would have been deeper were it not for the 70 million dollars in
financial assistance the government has secured from international lenders.
Rahmonov said further loans would be sought to support the budget.
TAX CUTS DESIGNED TO HELP BUSINESSES
On the economic front, the governments main strategy seems to be to stimulate
domestic production, although some analysts question how feasible this is.
The central bank has been told to reduce its benchmark lending rate, and
businesses will also benefit from lower profit and value-added taxes. The
government is also improving the terms of its fast-track tax system for some
businesses, and extending the freeze on tax inspections for smaller firms.
Finally, legislation has been put to parliament to cut away some of the
bureaucracy that hampers new business start-ups by creating a kind of one-stop
shop to handle the various procedures involved.
Rustam Jabbarov, deputy head of the taxation service, told IWPR the focus was
on easing conditions for smaller businesses because Tajikistan in contrast to
countries like Russia and Kazakstan had few really big companies.
Our [revenue] source is based largely on small and medium businesses, he said.
Firuz Saidov, a departmental head at Tajikistans Centre for Strategic Studies,
is optimistic that the tax breaks and other measures outlined by the president
will mean more small businesses are set up, generating more money for the
If the system works, the budget wont lose out; it might even gain if there
are more people paying taxes, he said.
However, other economists say things are not that simple, because the bulk of
companies operating in Tajikistan do not make goods; they simply trade in them.
Tax official Jabbarov acknowledged this was a reality, saying, Eighty per cent
of our entrepreneurs are not producers but traders. They buy here and sell
there. That isnt a bad thing, but it doesnt deliver much [in taxes] to the
Bahor Kamarov, an expert on business development, told IWPR that the dominance
of the retail sector made it implausible that tax cuts alone could stimulate
With that in mind, Kamarov warned that the governments decision to slash
profit tax from 25 to 15 per cent was likely to result in a lower overall
If you look at it [tax cut] in isolation it doesnt amount to much, but
multiplied across the country it will create a budget shortfall, he said.
The measure would only make sense, he suggested, if businesses used their tax
savings to invest in growth and purchase new technology.
LESS MONEY AROUND TO SPEND
Economists are warning that taxes from retailers are likely to dip this year,
since consumer spending in Tajikistan is largely driven not by locally-earned
income, but by the money which the million or so Tajiks working abroad send
home to their families.
By not only supporting households but also allowing them to buy from local
businesses, these remittances contribute around 40 per cent of Tajikistans
gross national product, according to World Bank figures.
Since last year, the construction industry in Russia and Kazakstan, where most
of the Tajik migrants work, the flow of money has fallen dramatically.
Central bank figures show that migrant workers sent money transfers of more
than two billion dollars in the period from January to September last year. But
after that, the transfers started falling away. These figures do not take into
account the money migrants bring home in cash.
Saidov noted that Rahmonovs keynote speech omitted to mention that we used to
receive 2.5 billion dollars a year from them [migrant worker] a substantial
contribution to peoples livelihoods.
He added, It will be very dangerous if the president continues to rely on
labour migration, because the world is changing
. Its a question of our
countrys economic and political security.
Saidov predicted that the true extent of the decline in remittances would only
become apparent after the end of June, when economic figures for the first half
of the year were available.
The reason, he said, was that people are still sending back money they earned
If the remittances fall by 50 per cent, gross domestic product will fall by 25
per cent, he added.
The IMF predicts that remittances will fall by 30 per cent in 2009.
TRANSLATING PLANS INTO ACTION A CHALLENGE
Aside from its hopes that tax cuts will generate more production, analysts
interviewed by IWPR said the governments anti-crisis programme largely makes
There are, however, still question-marks over how quickly and effectively the
plan can be implemented.
According to Saidov, much depends on how swiftly the tax cuts can be pushed
If the tax legislation hasnt been approved by June or July, then Tajikistan
will face major economic problems this autumn and winter, he warned.
Member of parliament Yusuf Ahmedov noted that Rahmonovs speech was largely
given over to the economy and the creation of new jobs.
But how is that going to be paid for? he asked.
Rahmatullo Valiev, deputy head of the opposition Democratic Party, said
transparency would be a key issue when it came to implementing the anti-crisis
What [Rahmonov] should have talked about
is how effectively the money thats
now being spent to get the country out of crisis is being used, he said.
Bearing in mind the way officials generally behave, only a small proportion of
the funding allocated to deal with the crisis will trickle down to ordinary
Farzona Abdulqaisova is an IWPR-trained journalist in Dushanbe.
KAZAK OPPOSITION PARTIES CONSIDER MERGER
Four main parties have agreed tactical alliance, but underlying differences
make complete union look unlikely.
By Elmira Gabidullina in Almaty
Despite concerted efforts by Kazakstans opposition parties to join forces,
analysts doubt they will take the final step a full merger that would leave
them well placed to take on the administration of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
During the Forum of Democratic Forces, held in Almaty on April 11, the four
strongest opposition parties the Azat Democratic Party, the National Social
Democratic Party, NSDP, the Communist Party of Kazakstan, CPK, and the Alga
Peoples Party agreed to form a united bloc.
A resolution signed by the four party leaders did not delineate the contours of
the coalition, stating only that a committee would be set up to develop a
common vision on a strategy for political, social, and economic reforms in
We have to combine our power and resources and leave behind old resentments
and ambitions in order to implement plans for economic recovery, said National
Social Democrat leader Jarmakhan Tuyakbay
Tuyakbay said the parties had to work together on how to deal with the effects
of the international economic crisis as they played out in Kazakstan. Accusing
the government of an ostrich-like failure to admit the scale of the problems,
he claimed that seven out of ten firms in Kazakstan were on the verge of
Tuyakbay floated the idea of creating a single opposition party capable of
taking on the presidents Nur Otan, which has a massive membership and was the
only party to win seats in the 2007 election to the lower house of parliament.
We must join hands in order that we do not vanish one by one, he said. That
is why we are setting up a joint committee to establish a single democratic
party, and we would welcome other parties joining this discussion.
Bulat Abishev, the NSDPs deputy leader, said the unification deal was the only
way the opposition would stand a chance in future elections.
We are uniting because we know who were dealing with, he explained. The
huge pro-presidential party has accumulated all the resources, and none of the
four oppositional parties will be able to run against it alone.
The four parties appear divided on how far they are prepared to move towards a
Petr Svoik, one of Azats leaders, points out that looser alliances are not
allowed under Kazak law, so the only real option is complete amalgamation.
The main objective of unification is to participate in elections under the
umbrella of one party, with a single party list, he said. Political blocs are
banned, and elections are around the corner that requires that we have a
strong list of candidates. This is why a single opposition party can be the
only form of unification.
Yet Abishev indicated that the NSDP was not planning on disappearing, saying,
No matter what form the unified political entity takes, our party wants to
preserve its own identity.
The leader of the Alga party, Vladimir Kozlov, went further than that, telling
IWPR that a decision to merge into one party would be not only detrimental but
Even a single party can be torn apart by internal differences. And if these
are compounded by external disputes when other parties coalesce into one, first
of all each of them will disappear, and later on, the single party will vanish.
So this approach would be completely futile.
Unlike the other three coalition members, Alga, which emerged out of the main
opposition party of the late Nineties, Democratic Choice of Kazakstan, has
never been granted registration as a political party.
These differing interpretations of what unification might mean offer a clue as
to why some analysts say the marriage will never work, however it is
Political scientist Dosym Satpaev says it makes a lot of sense for parties to
come together, given that they lack funds individually yet have the potential
to tap into growing public discontent at the economic downturn.
In addition, he said, it is more than likely the authorities will call an early
As IWPR reported in February, there are signs the authorities might go for an
early election, partly to get it over and done with before the already
difficult economic situation gets even worse, and to prevent the opposition
from pursuing the protest vote. (See Early Polls Looking Likely in Kazakstan,
RCA No. 567, 24-Feb-09.)
The current difficult socio-economic situation presents an opportunity for the
opposition, said Satpaev. The earlier merger of political parties into Nur
Otan has turned it into a strong pro-presidential fist, opposed by the spread
fingers of the opposition. Individual fingers obviously cant fight against a
fist, and thats why they want to unite. The question is how viable this
project will be.
At the same time, Satpaev noted that the four parties have quite separate
ideological views, making it hard to conceive of a combined party with a solid,
coherent programme. One particular problem, he said, was that they differ in
how far they are prepared to engage with the Nazarbaev administration.
While some parties wont countenance dialogue with the current government in
any form, others are more accommodating, he said.
Another political commentator, Nailya Musina, shares Satpaevs scepticism,
saying the four opposition groups vary in terms of ideological principles,
methods, and past relations with the authorities.
The opposition parties have already tried uniting, but these unions did not
last long, she said. And if they do form a single party, there will be the
question of who leads it. No party will wish to cede this to the others.
In 2007, Tuyakbays NSDP and Naghyz Ak Jol formed a bloc to contest a
parliamentary election. But legislation passed only months before the ballot
outlawed such blocs, leaving the two parties no option but to merge. The new
party did not surmount the seven per cent threshold needed to win seats in the
legislature, and the two parties subsequently went their own ways again.
Naghyz Ak Jol later transformed itself into the present Azat party.
Three years earlier, the CPK which had just suffered an internal schism that
produced the separate Communist Peoples Party fought an election in a bloc
with Democratic Choice of Kazakstan, but they too failed to get into
Musin believes a smaller bloc called Narodovlastie (People Power) which the CPK
formed with Alga this March is much more viable.
Although it isnt officially registered, Alga has been very active in the
provinces, and they have very serious resources and interesting projects on the
ground, she said. So I am putting my money on Narodovlastie, because if Azat
and the NSDP were to merge, theyd have serious problems choosing a leader.
Elmira Gabidullina is an IWPR contributor in Almaty.
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