WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 592, October 20, 2009
UNITING KAZAKSTANS 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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UNITING KAZAKSTANS OPPOSITION
Joining forces seen as step in right direction, but may not be enough to make
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 Nazarbaevs 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 countrys 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 Kazakstans 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
Azats 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 countrys 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 latters 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 Peoples Party in
April, but nothing came of it. Ahead of the 2007 legislative polls, the NSDP
and Naghyz Ak Jol (Azats 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.
Theres 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
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-Azats chances of getting into parliament would
depend solely on its own performance.
We cant do it for them, he added.
Sanat Urnaliev is an independent journalist in Kazakstan.
PATRIOTIC MOVE HITS WRONG NOTE IN KYRGYZSTAN
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 wont 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
wont produce patriotism
. These laws show that our MPs are out of touch with
reality or else that theyre 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 hasnt 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
mothers 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
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 dont know the
words of the anthem myself, and Ill never learn it unless Im forced to.
At the same time, he said, Children need to be taught to sing the anthem at
school, whereas its 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 wont love their motherland any more if theyre made to sing the
anthem, she said. Patriotism is not displayed through singing the anthem
thats 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 theres 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.
TAJIK MUDSLIDE REFUGEES OUT IN THE COLD
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
Saidbek and his wife are deaf, so another villager, Saifiddin Sobirov, told
Its hard living in a tent, said Sobirov, pointing out that the countrys
extreme temperatures made things worse.
In summer its hot and the heat of the sun is unbearable. Water has to be
fetched from far away, he said. And now at night its 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 springs 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 Tajikistans 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 wasnt 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 Nazarovs 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 dont know whether we can complete our house or our childrens 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
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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