Article Archive for Year 2007
Exactly one year ago, on 21 December 2006, the world learnt about the death of Saparmurat Niyazov. Long forgotten by the international media and isolated on the international stage Turkmenistan suddenly became the centre of attention. All commentators and analysts were wondering about the country’s future. Some of them predicted internal destabilization and struggle for power between members of Turkmenbashi’s entourage, but the hope that things would change for the better prevailed. It was, first of all, expected that the totalitarian regime would falter; the bolder ones even counted on reforms and a critical review of Niyazov’s rule. The situation in Turkmenistan was often compared to the one in the USSR after Stalin’s death and the new Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was compared to Nikita Khurshchev. Those who drew this analogy assumed that he would break with the totalitarian past, condemn Niyazov’s “mistakes” and at least partially liberalize the system.
However, nothing like that has happened. Despite some minor changes like education reforms, reinstatement of pensions and freedom of movement or opening of a few Internet cafes, the foundations of Niyazov’s regime have remained unchanged. Niyazov’s post was simply occupied by a new man, who very quickly slipped into his new role.
Adjar Kurtov, one of Russia’s best specialists on Central Asia, has written a very interesting article published on the www.ferghana.ru website in which he analyses Berdymukhammedov’s rise to power and the development of internal situation in Turkmenistan following Turkmenbashi’s death. He points out that Turkmenistan’s political system is very stable, which has been confirmed by the change in the country’s highest office. It has also proved that there are no serious conflicts within the ranks of the present Turkmen ruling elite and that the conviction that the system created by Niyazov should be continued persists. I would just add here that the fact of the change in the president’s office taking place without any external interference is very symptomatic.
The main point Kuratov makes is that the political system in Turkmenistan has not changed under Berdymukhammedov’s rule.
Berdymukhammedov acted cautiously and prudently. He did not try to appear as a revolutionist or a reformer, but as Niyazov’s successor, and he indeed became one. Gurbanguly Myalikgulyevich changed practically nothing in the framework of the Turkmen totalitarianism created by Niyazov. Moreover, with the passing of time, Berdymukhammedov started talking openly about the need to continue the course of constitutional reforms of his predecessor [...] In other words, Berdymukhammedov launched individual social, cultural and even economic reforms without introducing any political change.
Nevertheless, I think that the picture of the passing year would be incomplete if we left out Berdymukhammedov’s foreign policy which has changed completely as compared to the one led by his predecessor. First of all, it has become more active which seems to be the result of the clear definition of its goals that include: ending the country’s isolation (1); diversification of gas export routes (2); gaining independence from Russia in this area (3); attracting foreign investors to the oil and gas sector (4); maximization of profit from the sale of resources (5).
Berdymukhammedov’s foreign visits were the key element of his hitherto foreign policy. He has already visited all important countries engaged in the rivalry for influence in Central Asia, i.e.: Russia, the U.S., China and the EU. He has also been to Iran and Kazakhstan and made the so-called small hajj to Mekka. During his meetings, he has always declared the willingness to establish close relations, cooperation in the area of energy resources, and expressed support for all suggested pipeline routes which made an impression that it’s the other countries that seek to enter into cooperation with Ashgabat not the other way round.
Berdymukhammedov has remained Niyazov’s faithful follower on the internal scene, but he cannot be denied success in foreign policy. His main achievements include: launching of the gas pipeline construction to China; establishing good relations with the West; making Russia pay 30 per cent more for the Turkmen gas; a definite improvement in relations with the neighbouring countries (Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan); launching of the railway line construction linking Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran; improvement of Turkmenistan’s image abroad.
To sum up, the following conclusion could be drawn: as far as internal policy is concerned, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov fully deserves the title of Turkmenbashi II in the negative sense. However, in the area of foreign policy he turned out to be much more far-sighted and his actions are bringing profits not only to him and his entourage, but are also in line with the national interest of Turkmenistan.
Winter in Tajikistan is not only about electricity cut-offs but also about natural disasters which cause damages, destructions, and deaths. It was reported by the leading information agencies, including Reuters. An avalanche which came from the mountains down to the main road connecting Dushanbe and Khujand, killed at least sixteen people last night.
According to the spokesman, the accident occurred on a mountain road 70 km north of Dushanbe. The first large avalanche blocked the road, forcing some vehicles to stop, and the second avalanche crashed on them.
It was not the first avalanche on this road. As Asia Plus repots (rus), three days ago there was an avalanche in this area which trapped at least 60 cars but no one got hurt. Yesterday the snow was bulldozed and the traffic was restored.
BBC reports that according to the local police one of the drivers managed to make a phone call from his mobile but after that all communication was lost.
According to the final results of the parliamentary elections that the Central Election Committe has revealed, Ak Zhol, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan and Communists’ party have cleared 0.5% threshold. As AKIpress informs, the seats in Parliament have been distributed in the following way: Ak Zhol will have 71 seats, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan will have 11 seats, Communists’ party will have 8 seats. The opposition party Ata-Meken that after the preliminary results was on the second place following Ak-Zhol did not meet the 0.5% threshold.
CEC Chair Klara Kabilova said the parliamentary elections were conducted openly and transparently and met democratic norms. CEC approved protocol on distribution of seats in Parliament today between Ak Zhol, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan and Communists’ Party of Kyrgyzstan. She says:
The new Parliament will have representatives of almost all sectors of the society, these are scholars, teachers, lawyers, culture figures, sportsmen, businessmen and public figures. More than 20 deputies are representatives of different ethnic groups living in Kyrgyzstan. There are no parties which have won or lost, we believe, the people of Kyrgyzstan have won.
However, Ata-Meken party leader ex-deputy Omurbek Tekebaev and party’s candidate Temir Sariev do not think so. Temir Sariev said that CEC is responsible for the country and its future and therefore should folloe the law. He believes that:
If CEC members consider this issue only from the point of politics, rather than law, CEC Chair and members should bear all responsibility for this decision. I think that there is God’s trial except conscience trial, and if CEC members take illegal decision, they will be responsible for all that will be in the country. If today they tramp rights of thousands people, they should understand that tomorrow their rights will be also tramped. That’s why only CEC members should bear all the responsibility.
Ata-Meken’s supporters began political hunger strike in almost all regions of Kyrgyzstan. They believe that the election is invalid and therefore demand a re-election that would be open, fair and transparent.
Tajikistan is trying to put a spell on witchcraft and fortune-telling. Actually, this comes as a no-surprise to many Tajiks after all those strange laws that have been passed one after another by our parliament. The bill on witchery is also part of the “Cultural Revolution” in Tajikistan, started earlier this year by President Rahmon.
As distinct from the foreigners’ indignation, it does not seem strange to most Tajiks, who think that it is good to have charlatans punished. There are about 5,000 people in Tajikistan (one against nearly 150 citizens) registered at the Center of folk medicine as “healers” — most of them are involved in sorcery and fortune-telling and make lots of money. Read the full story »
This year was full of many interesting events in our life which had a great influence. However, I think 2007 will be remembered in the history of our country as year of cultural reforms. We already do not have lavish weddings and big funeral ceremonies, our students are not allowed to have festivities on ABC book day and graduation day, also they are prohibited to carry cell phones and drive cars, all newly born babies are no longer able to use Russian endings in their family names.
Ben made a very good roundup where he linked to several posts about the cultural reforms in the country which symbolized the rise of bashism in Tajikistan after the death of Turkmenbashi.
Once Turkmenistans former dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, or Turkmenbashi (Father of all Turkmens), died last December, the other Central Asian strongmen stood suddenly deprived of the ne plus ultra of Central Asian dictators.
After the small steps made in the beginning of the year, which were mainly directed to students with an aim to draw their attention from materialistic values to their education, there were some other bigger steps. To all these bans were added two more. President Rahmon in republican conference on regulation of national traditions and customs proposed fines for the lavish weddings and funerals. This proposition was immediately formed into a Law On Regulation of customs and traditions.
During this conference president of Tajikstan Emomali Rahmon criticized many things in everyday life of the Tajiks. Besides proposing a ban on lavish weddings and big funerals Rahmon laid structures on clergies for being out of date. This proposition also found its place in the legislation of Tajikistan.
Everyday on TV and other media outlets you can observe reports of governmental agencies on how good is the law on regulation of customs and traditions and that people are living a better life now then they did before the law. For example, according to official reports the frequency of marriages has been increased and people are getting married now two times more than they did last year. Even the local banks are referring to this law in their advertisements.
One of the giants of the Kazakhstan’s contruction industry seems to have real problems. The KUAT Corporation, which has led a number of large-scale projects in Almaty (a huge housing-and-administrative district in the Western part of Almaty and also an infrastructural project of the city’s by-pass highway) and Astana (also housing projects and governmental buildings) has been consequently denying all accusations of its insolvency.
Lately, however, the Almaty administration announced that due to the investor’s troubles the Eastern By-Pass Highway will be funded now by the city budget. Moreover, KUAT has been mentioned in the list of problematic companies that require government’s support for its projects in Astana. Finally, the rumors about mass firing of the workers and problems with paying salaries have been confirmed — the workers went on a strike in Astana, saying that they were not paid for four months already, but were denied the city administration’s permit for a rally.
The latest news are that the corporation’s top management promised to cover all debts until the end of the next week. We will keep you posted on the developments.
Following on from Bektour’s recent post on the arrest of protesters against the results of elections, here’s an update on the protest campaign. Yesterday, the participants of the campaign “I do not believe!” were arrested again, since they were holding their campaign outside the Central Election Commission in protest against results of the elections, informs AKIpress.
Young people believe these elections were corrupt and unfair. They held banners in their hands saying “I do not believe!” As AKIpress informs, human rights activists Tolekan Ismailova and Nazgul Turdubekova and reporters of 24.kg news agency and Deutsche Welle were brought to the police station together with young protesters.
More than 15 young people representing Ata Meken, Greens, Zamandash parties, representatives of Dilghir, Jebe and Free Generation youth movements took part in the campaign.
When asked why they hold campaign outside the Central Election Commission, young people said: “Decree of the Mayor’s Office is a mere sheet of paper. Let Daniar Usenov post it on the wall of his house. We build upon the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic.”
During the trial yesterday, the judge sentenced selected participants of the campaign several days in prison and to pay fine of 500 soms which equals to US$14.29.
The new decree adopted by Bishkek municipal council says that rallies, pickets and demonstrations may be conducted in certain places only. The organizers of such public events should notify the mayor’s office 10 days in advance of the action.
The protest now is being held at Maxim Gorku Monument in Bishkek. Chair of the Ata Meken Socialist Party Omurbek Tekebaev has joined the protest campaign and he said the participants of the campaign are detained illegally which is contradicts to the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan.
According to information published by the turkmenistan.ru website, another session of the Turkmen cabinet was held December 18th. It was attended by Minister of Finance Hojamyrat Geldymyradov, who had been asked to present a preliminary report on the economic development of Turkmenistan in 2007.
The poor minister must have been extremely nervous; his hands probably trembled, drops of sweat appeared on his forehead. The cabinet session is, after all, an important event! The President may get angry or be unsatisfied with the report. What then? The minister will, at best, get a rebuke or loose a month’s salary. But what about all those who were suddenly removed from post or – heaven forbid – arrested? Who knows what may happen!
Our minister must have been thinking for a longer while, scratching his head during sleepless nights as he tried to envisage the cabinet session, the president’s expression, his penetrating look. And what was the outcome? Actually, he did quite well: according to the minister’s report on Turkmenistan’s economic development, the preliminary figures in the passing year were as follows:
The expected growth in industry will reach 126.6%, in agriculture – 119%, in transport and communications – 120.5%. The pace of GDP growth will amount to 111.6%. As compared to 2006, we expect gas and oil extraction to grow by 9%, electricity production – by 6%, crude oil products – by 2%, iodine – by 7%, other mineral resources – by 35%, fish – by 17%.
I wonder if the minister just made these figures up as he went along or did he have to make up the whole theory and support them with complicated tables and charts? That would not be an easy thing to do at all. But what’s that? Not all the rates went up? It turns out some of them didn’t!
We expect paper production to decrease by 54%, nitrogen – by 9%. Meat and milk production rates and the number of cattle and sheep will remain unchanged.
Having said all this, the minister probably froze with horror awaiting the worst to happen. But what a luck?! The president remained silent. Or did he even nod his head in reverie? He could have rebuked the minister for that paper and sheep, after all.
To make things short, the hero of our story got away in one peace. Maybe he was just lucky or maybe his speech sounded reliable thanks to the whole night he spent preparing it, maybe someone else got rebuked this time. The minister may sleep calmly now. At least till the next cabinet session.