UNITING KAZAKSTAN’S OPPOSITION  Joining forces seen as step in right direction, 
but may not be enough to make opposition electable.  By Sanat Urnaliev in Almaty

PATRIOTIC MOVE HITS WRONG NOTE IN KYRGYZSTAN  Kyrgyz public unimpressed by new 
law to make singing national anthem compulsory.  By Anara Yusupova in Bishkek

TAJIK MUDSLIDE REFUGEES OUT IN THE COLD  With not enough money to rebuild 
homes, disaster victims face a winter under canvas.  By Sayrahmon Nazriev in 
Khuroson distrct, southern Tajikistan

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Joining forces seen as step in right direction, but may not be enough to make 
opposition electable.

By Sanat Urnaliev in Almaty

A long-awaited merger between two leading opposition parties in Kazakstan has 
given rise to hopes of a more balanced and pluralist political system than now, 
when one pro-government group holds all the seats in parliament.

At the same time, some observers doubt that unification will be enough to 
create a force capable of ousting President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s Nur Otan 
party from power. 

The merger between the Azat Party and the National Social Democratic Party, 
NSDP, was announced on October 13 by the two leaders, respectively Bulat Abilov 
and Jarmakhan Tuyakbay. 

The new group will be called NSDP-Azat once the deal has been formalised at a 
party congress on October 24. Officials say the new party will have a combined 
membership of 400,000 people – an impressive figure, but only about half that 
claimed by Nur Otan. 

Speaking at a press conference in the country’s commercial centre Almaty, 
Abilov insisted that the move was inspired by a desire to bring about real 
change, allowing the opposition to become more effective in addressing issues 
that Kazakstan’s current leaders had failed to deal with.

Abilov said NSDP-Azat was prepared to take on Nur Otan, and called on people to 
join his party in bringing about change before “we descend completely into 

Azat’s deputy chairman, Petr Svoik, said the new force was meant to offer a 
credible democratic alternative in the next election, adding, “The current 
system has outlived its time in political, economic and above all moral terms, 
and now it represents a threat to the country’s future. We need to give the 
country the opportunity of developing.”

The next parliamentary election is scheduled for 2012, the same year that a 
presidential contest is due to be held. But there has been speculation for some 
time now that the government will announce an early election, possibly next 
year when Kazakstan holds the rotating chairmanship of the Organisation for 
Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE. 

Some analysts believe the authorities are keen to create a two-party 
legislature to avoid embarrassment as chair of an organisation that supports 
democracy. However, many believe the president would prefer to see some tame, 
non-confrontational political force take up seats in parliament alongside Nur 
Otan members, rather than anything resembling real opposition.

In the past the authorities have blocked attempts to set up new opposition 
groups by delaying and obstructing the process under which they must apply for 
registration with the justice ministry. The plan is to get round that 
requirement by having Azat members join the NSDP, and use the latter’s existing 
registration as the legal foundation for the new group. 

Tuyakbay said the leadership question might be resolved by having two joint 

This is only the latest in a long line of attempts to build a stronger 
opposition. Most recently, Azat and the NSDP came close to forming a united 
bloc with the Communist Party of Kazakstan and the Alga People’s Party in 
April, but nothing came of it. Ahead of the 2007 legislative polls, the NSDP 
and Naghyz Ak Jol (Azat’s previous name) merged briefly for tactical reasons, 
but failed to surmount the threshold needed to gain seats.

This time round, however, things could conceivably be different, if a 
substantial opposition force could capitalise on public discontent resulting 
from the impact of the economic crisis on Kazakstan.

Almaty-based political scientist Nikolay Kuzmin was optimistic, saying the new 
party would be able to compete with Nur Otan because there was a general desire 
for a change.

“If other political organisations are unable to propose a clear alternative to 
[government] policy, then naturally all hopes will be attached to NSDP-Azat 
alone,” he said.

Kuzmin predicted that Nur Otan would receive around 50 per cent of the vote in 
an election, and the rest would be split among other parties, so NSDP-Azat 
could count on 20 or 30 per cent.

Dosym Satpaev, the director of the Risk Assessment Group, agreed that the mood 
was against the current administration.

“There’s a growing number of people who are dissatisfied with the authorities’ 
policies,” he said.

He said a unified party stood a better chance of capitalising on public 
sentiment. In his words, “a clenched fist is stronger than an open hand”. 

Even though Satpaev suggested NSDP-Azat could potentially capture 30 or 40 per 
cent of the vote in an election, he did not believe that would guarantee it 
seats in parliament. 

“Of course the president talks of the need for a two-party parliament,” he 
said. “But… it would be possible to create a two-party parliament without 
bringing in the opposition.”

The merger was received coldly by another opposition leader, Vladimir Kozlov of 
the Alga party. For more than four years, his party has been trying to 
register, but has been turned down repeatedly on minor technicalities.

“The opposition field has become smaller by one party,” he said. “And when the 
number of players gets smaller, it is bad.” 

Yermuhamet Yertysbaev, an adviser to President Nazarbaev on political affairs, 
expressed doubt that the merger would strengthen the opposition overall.

Recalling previous failed attempts at coalition-building, Yertysbaev said it 
might be better if all four main opposition parties united. 

“If, say, the unregistered Alga Party and the Communist Party with all its 
resources were to join this alliance, it would be a real force that could win 
up to 20 per cent [of the vote],” he said.

At the same time, Yertysbaev said people in Kazakstan had a history of having 
strong political leadership, which gave the incumbent president and his Nur 
Otan party an advantage.

Ultimately, he said, NSDP-Azat’s chances of getting into parliament would 
depend solely on its own performance.

“We can’t do it for them,” he added.

Sanat Urnaliev is an independent journalist in Kazakstan.


Kyrgyz public unimpressed by new law to make singing national anthem compulsory.

By Anara Yusupova in Bishkek

New legislation initiative making it compulsory for Kyrgyz citizens to stand 
and sing the national anthem whenever it is played has received an 
unenthusiastic response from the public.

While the legislators who drafted the bill insist that the measure will 
increase patriotic feeling within the Central Asian republic, civil society 
leaders have dismissed it as a ridiculous gesture and a waste of parliamentary 

On October 1, parliament passed amendments to the law on national symbols, 
making it compulsory for all citizens to sing along to the anthem. Failure to 
comply will lead to as yet unspecified penalties, which could fines, official 
warnings or even short periods of detention.

The law has also been changed so that private broadcasters are obliged to play 
the anthem when they come on air and at closedown, as is already the case for 
state-run TV and radio.

This is just the latest in a series of changes to the law on state symbols; 
previous ones made it compulsory to stand when the national anthem is played, 
stipulated floodlighting for the flag when flown above government buildings, 
and banned drivers from drilling through the Kyrgyz flag depicted on their 
number plate to attach it to the car. 

“Our parliamentarians are real characters – they won’t allow holes in the flag 
on car number plates, and they make people put their hands on their hearts and 
sing the anthem,” political analyst Mars Sariyev told IWPR. “I believe that 
patriotism begins with other things, and that this is a cosmetic measure that 
won’t produce patriotism…. These laws show that our MPs are out of touch with 
reality or else that they’re incompetent.”

However, the Ak Jol party which dominates the Kyrgyz parliament was united on 
the benefits of singing the anthem.

“The national anthem was created to be sung,” said Ziyaidin Jamaldinov, the Ak 
Jol parliamentarian who came up with the idea. “This amendment is a 
demonstration of respect towards a national symbol. Every citizen should know 
the anthem off by heart. If the law is ignored, then there will be a penalty.”

Avtandil Arabayev, another Ak Jol member and deputy head of the parliamentary 
committee for constitutional law, legal compliance and human rights, told IWPR 
that the idea was to get people into the way of respecting their national 

“In the long run, citizens will sing the anthem voluntarily, out of patriotic 
feeling. But right now, when that hasn’t yet become a tradition, we are trying 
to revive patriotism by introducing this legal standard.” 

During the debate on the bill, a note of dissent was sounded by Social 
Democratic Party member Irina Karamushkina, who said people should be 
encouraged to sing the anthem out of genuine feeling, rather than fear of 

“Citizens of Kyrgyzstan undoubtedly love and work for their country,” she said. 
“A sense of patriotism must be nurtured from childhood and imbibed with your 
mother’s milk. But forcing adults to display their patriotism is naïve and is 
to an extent a sign of authoritarianism.” 

This drew an angry response from Ak Jol member Beyshenbek Abdyrasakov, and he 
told Karamushkina, who is of Russian origin, “I want to say officially and 
publicly that you are an enemy of the Kyrgyz people.”

It now only remains for the draft amendment to be signed into law by President 
Kurmanbek Bakiev. 

Many ordinary people feel the new law will not have much effect, and that 
parliament should instead be focusing on the economic and social challenges 
that directly impact on their lives.

Bishkek resident Yevgenia Loginova, 35, said, “I regard it as coercion. For me, 
love of the motherland is a personal thing, and I do not want to put it on show 
by singing the anthem in the company of others…. Nobody can force anyone to 
sing it or not sing it, or to put my hand on my heart or not.”

Maksat Amanov, 30, said he saw some logic in the new rules as “I don’t know the 
words of the anthem myself, and I’ll never learn it unless I’m forced to.”

At the same time, he said, “Children need to be taught to sing the anthem at 
school, whereas it’s pointless forcing adults, since the USSR anthem was their 
national anthem for many decades.”

Dinara Oshurakhunova, who heads the non-government Coalition for Democracy and 
Civil Society said nobody could be forced to acquire patriotic fervour. 

“People won’t love their motherland any more if they’re made to sing the 
anthem,” she said. “Patriotism is not displayed through singing the anthem 
–that’s a ridiculous idea. You cannot make people love their motherland by this 
method when the majority of the population lives below the poverty line.”

Oshurakhunova pointed to previous attempts by parliament to patent Kyrgyz 
national cuisine, and ban the wearing of shorts bearing the image of the Kyrgyz 

“It seems that parliamentarians have nothing better to do,” she said. “They 
ought show more concern about things like whether there’s electricity in the 
house of every Kyrgyz citizen. Then everyone would love and cherish the 

Anara Yusupova is a pseudonym for a journalist in Kyrgyzstan.


With not enough money to rebuild homes, disaster victims face a winter under 

By Sayrahmon Nazriev in Khuroson distrct, southern Tajikistan

Saidbek Nazarov sighed sadly as he pointing at the tent he occupies with his 
wife and five children. This has been their home since their house in the 
village of Shohrokh was destroyed in the mudslides that hit southern Tajikistan 
this spring. 

Saidbek and his wife are deaf, so another villager, Saifiddin Sobirov, told 
their story. 

“It’s hard living in a tent,” said Sobirov, pointing out that the country’s 
extreme temperatures made things worse. 

“In summer it’s hot and the heat of the sun is unbearable. Water has to be 
fetched from far away,” he said. “And now at night it’s already getting really 
cold and children are falling ill. 

“They [Nazarovs] are one of the poorest in our village,” Sobirov said, noting 
that they have no means to build their own house. 

More than 100 families in Khuroson district are still living in tents, months 
after their homes were damaged or destroyed by torrents of mud. They complain 
that the financial assistance the government has provided is not enough to put 
a roof over their heads, and that some residents have lost out through 

This spring’s mud flows, landslides and flooding followed abnormally heavy 
rainfall in 40 districts across Tajikistan, which left 26 people dead and over 
3,000 displaced. Khuroson was one of the areas worst hit, suffering mudslides 
on April 21-22 and again on May 14, and Tajikistan’s United Nations office says 
477 families in this district were displaced. (See Tajiks Struggle to Cope With 
Flood Damage, RCA No. 580, 12-Jun-09.) 

“Unfortunately, some families have been unable to start building houses because 
there wasn’t the money,” said Asadullo Muminov, a representative of the 
Khuroson district administration. 

Muminov said that although people wanted to go back to the village, government 
geologists had decided the area was too dangerous. The authorities have 
persuaded 136 families to start construction work in a new settlement where 
they have been allocated land. 

But Muminov was not hopeful that they had the resources to complete the work 
before the cold weather set in. 

“At present, 40 families have started building houses and I have to admit that 
their financial situation is very difficult indeed,” he said. 

Nazarov claimed that in deciding how to allocate compensation, the authorities 
wrongly classified his family as only “partially affected” by the disaster. His 
brother was receded as having had his home completely destroyed, even though 
they had both shared the same house together with their families before the 

So while Nazarov’s brother moved into a new home built by the authorities, he 
himself was given a plot of land, some building materials and the equivalent of 
several hundred US dollars to build the house himself. The cash was only enough 
to pay for the foundations. 

Muminov agreed that Nazarov had been assessed incorrectly, but he said the 
local council had recently signed an agreement with an international relief 
organisation to fund several poor families to complete their houses. 

“We will make sure the Nazarovs are among these families,” Muminov said. 

In this impoverished part of Tajikistan there is little work available apart 
from growing and processing cotton. The majority of families survive due to 
members working abroad as labour migrants, usually in Russia or Kazakstan. 

Like Nazarov, his neighbour Sobirov is having to rebuild his old home. 

“Our houses were partially damaged,” he said. “I and my children, with four 
families between us, were each given a plot of land, six cubic metres of 
timber, six tons of cement, roof tiles and 3,000 somonis [680 dollars],” he 

The funds, however, were not enough to pay builders to complete the work, so 
the family is doing much of it themselves. With a truckload of rock for the 
foundations costing up to 90 dollars and similar amount of sand priced at 35 
dollars, money is tight. 

“I don’t know whether we can complete our house or our children’s until the end 
of autumn,” he said. 

Sobirov and other villagers are still grateful for aid from international 
agencies and the Tajik government. But there is an underlying feeling of 
bitterness at the way the help was distributed. 

“I think there was some nepotism in the way the assessments and distribution 
were done,” said a man who gave his first name as Sherali, who says his ruined 
home was categorised as partially damaged, unlike that of a neighbour who got 
full compensation in the shape of a new home. 

A prosecution service official in Khuroson told IWPR that a criminal case had 
been launched against a local official accused of listing two families as 
eligible for government help, despite the fact they came from a village 
unaffected by the disaster. 

While the official is being investigated, his superior has been dismissed, the 
source said. 

As for the Nazarovs, worries about whether they can secure roof above the head 
before winter comes have led them to consider sending their daughter to Russia 
to find work. 

Despite fears for her safety, they feel they have no other choice at the 

Sayrahmon Nazriev is an IWPR-trained contributor. 

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