WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 586, August 15, 2009
KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO GROWING ECONOMIC GLOOM Latest statistics confirm
slowdown is worse than expected. By Asyl Osmonalieva in Bishkek
TAJIK PROSECUTORS TAKE ON COURTS In accusing judge of misconduct, are
prosecutors acting in the public interest or in their own? By Nargiz
Hamrabaeva in Dushanbe
STATIC POLITICS IN TAJIKISTAN Election next spring will replicate the
governing partys dominant position, leaving only a few seats for its rivals.
By Lola Olimova, Nafisa Pisaredjeva and Talabsho Salomov in Dushanbe
NO LIGHT ON HORIZON FOR TURKMEN NGOS Talk of reformist policies has not made
it any easier for non-government groups to win legal status. By IWPR staff in
2009 KYRGYZ ELECTION UPDATES: http://iwpr.net/kyrgyzelection09
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KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO GROWING ECONOMIC GLOOM
Latest statistics confirm slowdown is worse than expected.
By Asyl Osmonalieva in Bishkek
The Kyrgyz government is under pressure to accelerate efforts to soften the
impact of the ongoing economic crisis, as figures confirm the extent of the
When ministers met businesspeople at a conference on August 4-6 to discuss the
next phase of the anti-crisis plan the government has been implementing since
the start of the year, they agreed that speed was of the essence if Kyrgyzstan
is to be steered through this period of global economic turbulence. The
discussion centred on how the business sector believes banking, industry,
agriculture and tourism should be supported.
The country is currently experiencing a decline in production, trade and the
service sector. Swift action is needed to stabilise the situation, First
Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov told a press conference a day after the
meeting, which he chaired.
The idea of engaging the business community in taking the anti-crisis plan
forward was announced by Prime Minister Igor Chudinov at a July 28 cabinet
Chudinov made it clear that current plans would have to be revised as the
economic situation was worse than anticipated.
According to the national statistics agency, the economy grew by only 0.3 per
cent year on year in the first six months of 2009, compared with 7.5 per cent
in the same period last year. Industrial production fell by nearly 19 per cent,
in part because of a slump in exports.
The world financial crisis, which has impacted all world economies, has also
affected our country, Bolot Toksobayev, head of the department for
macroeconomic analysis and forecasting at the Ministry of Economic Development
and Trade, told IWPR. Kyrgyzstans main trading partners, Russia and
Kazakstan, reduced the volume of manufactured goods they buy from us. Falling
domestic and external demand led to a decline in industrial production as
enterprises cant make a profit if they are producing just to stock the
Energy shortages, caused by low water levels in the Toktogul reservoir which
powers the countrys biggest hydroelectric scheme, only compounded the problems
Finally, the economy has also suffered from a decline in the amount of money
sent home by the hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz nationals working abroad.
Reflecting the continuing deterioration, the International Monetary Fund, IMF,
has scaled down its growth forecast for the year from 3.7 to 0.9 per cent.
The IMF says external assistance, particularly a large Russian financial
package approved earlier this year, is essential to helping the Kyrgyz economy
weather the storm and keeping the government solvent afloat.
Current government policy includes efforts to boost budget revenues, build new
industrial units and ensure a good harvest, while hoping that Kyrgyzstans
trading partners begin to recover so that exports start rising again.
Toksobaev said money had been earmarked for a development fund that will be
used to revive moribund industries and back major new projects, for example a
new cement factory in Kyzyl Kiya in the southern Batken region and a metals
plant in neighbouring Osh.
The obstacle to progress on these schemes, he added, was unnecessary levels of
We have to clear away the bureaucratic obstacles; it is these obstacles that
are holding up the process of starting up plants which could even now be
earning money for the national budget and providing people with jobs, he said.
Analysts have welcomed the governments determination to address the crisis,
although they warn against depending on forecasts that the global economy will
recover rapidly, helping Kyrgyz exports.
As Kairat Kasymaliev of the Bishkek-based investment company MGN Capital notes,
In March, the situation on world stock markets temporarily stabilised,
triggering optimistic statements by some experts that the crisis was over. But
then the situation got worse again. Now were again seeing an economic revival
[in Kyrgyzstan], although its quite possible this is a temporary phenomenon.
Toksobaev agreed that it was premature to be talking about a worldwide
Currently, the crisis is being weathered because of the money countries have
invested in addressing it, but when that has been spent, it is very possible
the crisis could repeat itself, he said.
In February, President Kurmanbek Bakiev secured a Russian pledge to invest 1.7
billion US dollars in a major hydroelectric scheme, a 300-million-dollar loan
to support the government budget, additional financial assistance worth 150
million dollars and a write-off of 193 million dollars in sovereign debt,
granted in exchange for a stake in a Kyrgyz defence plant.
Analysts agree with the IMF view that support from Russia and other donors and
lenders will help cushion the economic impact of crisis.
Nurbek Elebaev, who chairs the board of Kyrgyzstans stock exchange, says it
would be worth seeking more loans on soft terms from countries like China, as
long as the authorities ensure the money is properly invested in short-term
that will bring swift and productive returns that benefit the country.
Another prediction on which the authorities are pinning their hopes is that the
harvest will be a good one, ensuring the country has adequate stocks of food to
take it through next winter. The agriculture ministry is forecasting a grain
harvest of 642,000 tons, a 14 per cent increase on last year.
As analysts like Kasymaliev point out, hoping for the best is not enough.
Better planning, led by the agriculture ministry, is needed to avoid
unnecessary shortfalls in the production of particular foodstuffs, he says.
At the same time, Kasymaliev dismisses fears of major food shortages.
The situation last year, when the harvest was destroyed by an unusually severe
drought, could be described as a shock, but this year we havent had anything
of this kind, he said.
Bakay Junushev, director of the iCap Investment financial services firm, adds a
note of sobriety, noting that Kyrgyzstan has experienced crises of one kind or
another for the three years. The likelihood is that people will endure this
years hardships as well.
Asyl Osmonalieva in an IWPR-trained journalist in Kyrgyzstan.
TAJIK PROSECUTORS TAKE ON COURTS
In accusing judge of misconduct, are prosecutors acting in the public interest
or in their own?
By Nargiz Hamrabaeva in Dushanbe
Not for the first time, a court in Tajikistan has been accused of handing down
excessive sentences. What sets this latest case apart is that the complaint
comes from the prosecution service, which does not usually make it its business
to seek leniency.
Some analysts say prosecutors are right to try to rein in a judiciary that
appears over-fond of heavy sentencing. Others, however, believe the prosecution
service is merely trying to undermine judges who are about to be strengthened
by judicial reforms.
When the trial in question ended on June 10 in the northern city of Khojand, 29
people were sentenced to between ten and 25 years in prison for a range of
charges including murder, money laundering and possession of weapons. Two more
received two-year sentences and were released as part of an amnesty.
All 31 were accused of being part of an organised crime group working for
Nuriddin Juraev, a local oligarch in the industrial town of Isfara and a former
member of the Soghd regional assembly, who is wanted on charges of large-scale
embezzlement but is on the run.
The crimes of which they were convicted took place from 1998 to 2007, when the
provincial prosecutor launched a case against Juraev, accusing him of using
gangland tactics to forcibly acquire or privatise assets including a
food-processing plant and other industrial units, hotels and cafes, filling
stations, and houses and apartments.
It is hard at first sight to understand why prosecutors would oppose a
successful outcome to a case which they themselves had brought, against what
appears to have been a dangerous and violent group. The murder of which some
defendants were convicted was of a deputy chief prosecutor of Tajikistan, Tolib
Boboev, in 1999.
Yet at a July 7 press conference in the capital Dushanbe, Prosecutor General
Bobojon Bobokhonov described the verdict as illegal and unfair and announced
that he had lodged a formal protest with the Supreme Court.
This is the first time I have encountered such lawlessness, said Bobokhonov.
As early as the preliminary investigative phase, charges of setting up a
criminal group were dropped, yet this article [of the criminal code] was the
main element in the final verdict was based on. That means the court ignored
the investigative documents. As a result, the sentences passed were too harsh.
Two days after Bobokhons press conference, Nur Nurov, the Supreme Court judge
who presided at the trial, dismissed the chief prosecutors allegations.
When it comes to Bobokhonovs statement, only the collegium of the Supreme
Court can provide a legal assessment of this judicial process, he said.
Nurov said it was perfectly legitimate for judges to hand down heavier
sentences than requested by prosecutors if they felt it necessary.
He added that there was a popular misconception that if the prosecution asks
for, say, two years, then the final sentence will be less than that. In fact,
he said, there were precedents he himself had previously handed out death
sentences when prosecutors had recommended a 14 jail term.
This is perfectly legal, he said.
Analysts are divided about the rights and wrongs of the prosecutors
Parviz Mullojonov, for example, said that in general, courts in Tajikistan
routinely imposed unjustifiably harsh sentences, and what made the current
controversy so unusual was the fact that prosecutors were protesting.
Never before, as far as I can remember, has a prosecutor general publicly
criticised a judge for sentencing too harshly. As a rule, its the reverse it
is the prosecution that recommends the harshest verdicts, he said.
Legal experts say there were flaws in the case brought before the court.
The main reason why almost all defendants received such long sentences was that
they were implicated in organised rather than individual criminal activity.
That meant that those accused of economic crimes received the same kind of
prison terms as those accused of murder.
From the start of the trial, those accused of murder should have been treated
as a separate category, said a lawyer who wished to remain anonymous.
Relatives of some of the accused told IWPR that lumping all the defendants
together was prejudicial to the outcome.
Umed Vahhobov said prosecutors had recommended a seven-year term for his
brother Ghanijon, a customs officer accused of offences that cost the state
2,300 US dollars, but the final sentence was three times that.
No evidence was presented that he was a member of Juraevs illegal group,
The brother of another convicted man, Saifiddin Vafoev, said he got 20 years
instead of the recommended three, and once again he was not personally
implicated in organised crime.
Other analysts note that the stand-off between Bobokhonov and the judiciary at
a time when the prosecution service is battling to save powers that are likely
to be transferred to the courts, under a set of legal reforms due to conclude
While legislation on other elements such as civil law and economic crime has
already been passed, the code on how criminal offences are prosecuted and tried
is still under discussion.
Analyst Abdullo Qurbonov believes the chief prosecutors attack on a Supreme
Court judge looks suspiciously like an attempt to show that the judicial system
is unfit to take on extra tasks.
The reforms would bring Tajikistan into line with the common international
practice where arrest warrants must be approved by a judge, rather than by
prosecutors as is now the case.
Very soon, the new criminal process code will state that arrest warrants can
only be issued by the courts, said Qurbonov. So it becomes very important for
the prosecution to demonstrate to the head of state that judges are
incompetent, and to identify other shortcomings in the work of the courts.
Qurbonov says current legislation gives prosecutors virtually unlimited powers
and immunity for all prosecution state, which he said had created a sense of
A feature left over from Soviet legal practice, these extensive powers have
meant that Tajik prosecutors can dominate the courtroom and effectively direct
both proceedings and outcome.
While acknowledging that the courts make mistakes and overstep the mark,
Qurbonov said the current dispute should not be allowed to derail the general
trend towards reform, even in the event that Judge Nurovs Supreme Court
colleagues overturn his decision.
Shokirjon Hakimov, an opposition politician and head of the faculty of law and
international relations at the Tajik International University, approves of the
plan to clip prosecutors wings.
Right now, he says, the imposition of certain sanctions and the issue of
arrest warrants lie exclusively in the hands of the prosecution service, which
also has the right to exercise oversight of the courts.
But in a state that is founded on rule of law, the last word has to lie with
The defendants in the Khojand trial are currently appealing against their
convictions at the Supreme Court. It is not clear whether the court will
respond to Bobokhonovs protest separately.
The chief prosecutor has warned that if the Supreme Court failed to overturn
the sentences, his office reserves the right to prosecute Judge Nurov.
Nargiz Hamrabaeva is a correspondent for the Asia Plus news agency.
STATIC POLITICS IN TAJIKISTAN
Election next spring will replicate the governing partys dominant position,
leaving only a few seats for its rivals.
By Lola Olimova, Nafisa Pisaredjeva and Talabsho Salomov in Dushanbe
The next parliamentary election in Tajikistan is still seven months away, but
the outcome is already clear. Not only is it a near-certainty that the
governing Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will win, but it is a safe bet to say
the Islamic Rebirth Party, IRP, will come a distant second, followed by the
The two latter parties inability to gain on the PDP is partly because they
lack its resources and access to media, compounded by electoral rules which
they say are tilted against them.
However, some observers say that even if the playing field was levelled,
neither the IRP nor the Communist Party would be able to gather a winning
number of votes. As a result, Tajikistans multiparty democracy is stuck in a
Opposition parties including the IRP, the Communists, and others which are not
represented in parliament have been lobbying for improvements to the electoral
system, thus far without success.
The Communists drafted a reform bill that proposed abolishing the
non-returnable deposit candidates have to pay in order to stand. At 7,000
somonis, around 1,700 US dollars, opposition parties say the fee will prevent
them fielding as many candidates as they could otherwise have done.
Other proposed changes include doubling the amount of free airtime assigned to
political party broadcasts to one hour, and requiring local electoral
commissions to include opposition party agents in the interests of
Parliament broke up for the summer without looking at the bill, so the review
process will only start in October, by which time it may be too late to get any
changes in place if they are approved at all before campaigning for the
February election begins.
If the proposals set out by the political parties are not taken into account,
the forthcoming election will be marred by numerous violations in the same way
that previous ones were, said Rahmatullo Valiev, deputy chairman of the
Democratic Party, which has no seats in parliament.
A total of eight political parties will contest 22 out of the 63 seats in the
lower house of parliament, based on a proportional representation system. The
remaining 41 seats are directly elected on a constituency basis, offering
parties a chance to get more members into the legislature.
The PDP is in an unassailable position because its proximity to power gives it
access to resources including media, and national and local government
officials are expected to join as a matter of course. It currently has an
absolute majority with 52 seats.
The Communists hold four seats while the IRP held two seats until April, when
one of its deputies stepped down on health grounds.
Their poor showing does not reflect relative membership numbers if the PDP
has 100,000-plus members nationwide, the Communists have a respectable 50,000
and the IRP around 30,000.
Political analysts say the next election is very likely to preserve the status
quo, so that the IRP and Communists will gain a handful of seats while the PDP
sweeps the board.
Others like the Democratic Party, the Socialists and the Social Democratic
Party of Tajikistan, did not make it past the five per cent threshold set for
the 2005 ballot. Their chances in the next parliamentary contest remain slim.
The IRP and Communists both face difficulties in expanding constituencies that
are somewhat restricted by their specific ideologies.
The IRPs history as an armed opposition force during the 1992-97 civil war
meant its original powerbase was in the opposition strongholds in the mountain
valleys of eastern Tajikistan and around Qurghonteppa in the southwest of the
Under the terms of the peace deal which ended the war in 1997, the United Tajik
Opposition, UTO in which the IRP was the main player disbanded its
guerrilla army, and the Islamic party was legalised and granted a quota of
government posts, although the number was eroded in subsequent years.
The party espouses Islamic values the bulk of Tajikistans population is
Sunni Muslim but unlike illegal radical groups, it supports the current
secular state structure.
The IRPs past still means it has limited appeal in areas like Kulob in the
south, the heartland of its wartime opponents the administration of President
Imomali Rahmon and the PDP.
However, party officials insist the party is reaching out to new supporters.
These days, they say, half of its members live in Soghd province in the north
of the country, which would previously have been unthinkable.
Party leader Muhiddin Kabiri says women now account for 46 per cent of the
Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, who heads the IRPs research department, says the
party now attracts intellectuals, civil servants and businessmen the latter
also helping to fund the party. Another important source of contributions, he
says, is the large population of Tajiks working abroad who send money back
For more on the party, see Tajik Islamic Party Slowly Sidelined , (RCA No. 579,
If the IRP has some potential for expanding its power-base, that is less the
case with the Communists.
After independence in 1991, the bulk of the Soviet Communist Party in
Tajikistan was effectively transformed into the present PDP, while the true
believers were left as a small rump party.
The Communist Party appeal to a generation of over-50s who recall the Soviet
period as a time of certainty, stability and better living standards than now.
As political analyst Parviz Mullojonov points out, these voters form a loyal
and reliable support-base.
At the same time, the Communists particular appeal mean their voters are
getting older, and are not being replaced by young people.
Mullojonov says the aging effect will not necessarily show itself in the 2010
ballot, when he says the party has every chance of maintaining its current
position in parliament [four seats], at the very least.
The Communist Partys long-term future looks bleaker than the IRPs, though.
Analyst Qiyomiddin Sattori says that to the extent that there is any
competition, it will be between two groups, the PDP and the IRP. The
Communists are no longer a rival.
With so little scope for a turnaround in Tajik politics, analysts predict that
any changes will be minor ones engineered by the authorities.
Shokirjon Hakimov, deputy chairman of the Social Democrats, says, The
authorities are artificially creating a three-party system where there is room
only for the PDP, IRP and the Communists.
Mullojonov predicts that the authorities will seek to adjust the composition of
parliament to suit themselves.
They might try to limit the IRP to just one member, and adjust the number of
Communist Party members either upwards or downwards, he said. They might even
back a third, weaker party and help it get into the legislature, so as to make
the new parliament look more presentable and improve its image.
Another analyst, Rashidghani Abdullo, says the apparent pluralism of
Tajikistans political system is designed to satisfy the international
community that democratic mechanisms are in place, without actually relaxing
the Rahmonov administrations grip on power.
The leaderships in post-Soviet countries are fundamentally oriented towards
building strong states, but they understand they have to follow certain rules
of the game with other influential states, particularly western ones, he said.
So on the one hand, they allow elections to take place, but on the other, they
strive to exert tight controls over the entire process.
Lola Olimova is IWPR Tajikistan Editor; Nafisa Pisaredjeva is an IWPR-trained
journalist and Talabsho Salomov is a reporter in Tajikistan.
NO LIGHT ON HORIZON FOR TURKMEN NGOS
Talk of reformist policies has not made it any easier for non-government groups
to win legal status.
By IWPR staff in Central Asia
More than two years after incoming Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov
promised to relax the rigid controls imposed by the state, non-government
groups say their position has not changed for the better.
Berdymuhammedovs talk of reform and the steps he announced to reverse the
detrimental policies of his predecessor Saparmurat Niazov in areas like
healthcare and education raised hopes that Turkmenistan would undergo a more
general process of liberalisation, and that non-government organisations, NGOs,
would be allowed to resume work.
That has not happened, according to local observers.
While human rights groups continue to be regarded as completely beyond the
pale, even associations pursuing innocent aims like helping the elderly and
beekeeping are still finding that their applications to register with the
authorities are blocked at every turn. Not one has been registered since
Berdymuhammedov came to power.
A new law on public organisations passed in 2003 was designed to give the
government total control over the activities, funding and assets of
non-government organisations, NGOs.
To operate legally, it is essential for an NGO to register with the justice
ministry. Failure to do so leaves its members open to prosecution for illegal
On the face of it, Turkmenistan has a healthy civil society numbering several
hundred groups. However, these are either government-sponsored institutions
working on behalf of women, children and young people, and veterans of the
Second World War; or semi-commercial ventures supporting the arts, sports and
All of them are sanctioned and controlled by government, so this select band
faces no real problems registering.
Even so, according to one local analyst, only about 150 of the
government-approved NGOs that exist on paper actually operate; the rest are
Other NGOs find their applications are turned down flat or else the process is
dragged out for years with no resolution.
According to a justice ministry official who did not want to be named, in some
instances groups are told their activities will overlap with the functions of
government agencies or the approved NGOs.
Yet many local charities are trying to address issues in areas long neglected
by the state, such as helping the unemployed, elderly people and other
An unemployed lecturer who wanted to set up a group that would provide business
training courses for housewives and unemployed young people said he had been
waiting for a response from the justice ministry for over two years.
I have completely lost faith in seeing good and useful ideas being
implemented, he said.
An activist in Ashgabat described how he and his colleagues had all but given
up any hope they would be allowed to work with elderly people struggling to
These people who were ready to work with the elderly have lost hope, while
elderly people in need are left with nothing, he said.
Others who have so far failed to make progress with their applications include
a group of Ashgabat scientists who planned to use their knowledge to show
farmers to grow organic produce; a group which wanted to arrange summer camps
for children; and a farming expert who tried to set up a charity teaching
school-leavers from poor families skills that would earn them an income, such
as beekeeping, rabbit-breeding and making eco-friendly fertilisers.
This man, based in the northern province of Dashoguz, said, Ive realised I
wont be able to afford to get registered I dont have the energy, time or
money to keep going to the [justice] ministry, so Im working without
registration, at my own risk.
He questions the authorities motives for blocking groups like his.
You have to ask who gains by it. How do the authorities benefit from doing
this? Theyre unable to offer anything in its place, he said.
An Ashgabat-based analyst explained how justice ministry officials try to find
errors in the supporting documentation in order to invalidate applications.
Bureaucrats find various reasons for prolonging the process, and in the end
they either say no to registration, or the NGO activists get tired of it and
give up trying, said a media analyst in city of Dashoguz. The list of formal
excuses for not accepting documents is endless the address doesnt count as
legal, some certificate is missing, or they want a medical letter confirming
that the NGO director is of sound mind.
The analyst said the policy of refusing registration reflected the authorities
profound fear of losing control over any aspect of public life.
The main reason why the authorities dont want to give people an opportunity
to assemble and engage in communal activity even to set up an innocent
interest group is that [it brings together] people who hold common ideas.
Thats already a sign of dissent, he said. The Turkmen authorities cannot let
this happen. The entire system has been built so as to prevent people from
exchanging ideas and views, and from getting together to discuss things.
Apart from legal status, registration would allow independent NGOs to apply for
funding from donors abroad.
An environmentalist in Ashgabat said donors generally had rules restricting
their grants to properly registered NGOs, If funds go instead to the
pro-government NGOs, he warned, In a country like Turkmenistan, it would
mean the money is going to strengthen the authorities.
Prior to the 2003 legislation, unregistered NGOs had a little more freedom of
action to work on grants from international donor organisations.
Until the new law arrived, there were over 200 initiative groups operating
with financial assistance from international organisations. Most had submitted
documents for registration but did not obtain it, said an analyst who used to
work for the government.
Although no independent NGOs are currently winning registration, there are some
to which the authorities are particularly hostile. According to the analyst,
this list includes human rights groups, those working on educational projects,
and NGOs that want to help develop small and medium-sized businesses, and
As an activist involved in a failed bid to register a group organising summer
camps for young people said, some organisations continued to work illicitly.
But the consequences can be grave, he added.
A journalist in Dashoguz said NGO activists had either left the country or were
now operating covertly.
Some have gone underground; they work with caution and pass on their
knowledge, ideas and skills to those who are interested, he said. I know
these people but cant name them, as they are all under the scrutiny of the
security services. They are being watched, their phones are tapped, emails are
screened, and they are even followed. During events such as a visit by a
foreign delegation in the country, some are placed under house arrest.
The risks of trying to engage even in the most innocent kinds of NGO activity,
and the impossibility of registering, are having a stifling effect on civic
Over the last few years, no one [i.e no new group] has even tried to register
because its a pointless, useless exercise, said the journalist. Its even
dangerous to say the word NGO aloud as it attracts suspicions that you are
trying to organise people, something which will mean unpleasant consequences
with the security services.
(The names of interviewees have been withheld out of concern for their
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