Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 286 - (28/10/04)
Electoral season opens
In profoundly corrupt settings, leaders go to extraordinary lengths to cling to
power for fear of prosecution by their successors. Kyrgyzstan, which is slated
to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005, could be a test case.
President Askar Akayev has pledged not to seek a new term, becoming the first
Central Asian leader to make such a promise.
Concern of ethnic minorities
Concern about Kyrgyzstan's civil rights climate is prompting the country's
sizeable Uzbek community to throw its weight behind the government as election
season approaches. The show of support comes even as many Kyrgyz express
frustration that their own interests have gone unnoticed by Akayev's
Comprising roughly 13 percent of Kyrgyzstan's overall population of 5 million,
Uzbeks are the country's largest ethnic minority group. The Russians are the
second, but are more confident of their position with the weight of Russia
behind them, on which Kyrgyzstan is dependent for energy and many other things.
Akayev is a decided Russophile, having spent 17 years in Leningrad in the days
of the USSR.
Uzbek election preferences are sure to be driven by memories of the bloody 1990
rioting involving Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern Osh region. Akayev's
domestic policies, casting Kyrgyzstan as a "common house," have helped
restore a sense of order, and have reassured many Uzbeks that they are welcome
Now, with Akayev's pending retirement in 2005, many Uzbeks are approaching the
parliamentary and presidential votes in 2005 with apprehension. They are keen to
see Akayev's "common house" course continued, but wonder what will
happen if Akayev leaves the political stage.
Akayev has publicly stated that he will not run again, but the issue of the
incumbent's candidacy remains unsettled. The constitution appears to bar Akayev
from seeking another term. However, some local political analysts believe the
Basic Law could end up being reinterpreted to enable Akayev to seek re-election.
If that occurs, Uzbeks could be counted to be strong Akayev backers. "Akayev
should stay in power because he will ensure stability and peace," Gafur
Soliev, an Uzbek retiree, told EurasiaNet. "Others cannot do it."
Regardless of Akayev's final decision on the 2005 presidential election, Uzbeks
are likely to look to the incumbent president for guidance on how to vote in the
parliamentary poll, scheduled to occur in February. In the event that Akayev
indeed retires, Uzbeks also will be eager to see if he endorses a particular
At present, Uzbeks are wary of the growing influence of Kyrgyz nationalists in
politics. Nationalist sentiment is arising out of the frustration generated by
the country's stagnant economic conditions, some observers say. Among the more
outspoken adherents are leading members of the opposition, including
parliamentary deputy Adahan Madumarov and Omurbek Tekebayev, a former
presidential candidate and leader of the opposition group Ata Meken
(Fatherland). Both men have expressed distrust of Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek population.
This association has prompted many Uzbeks to steer clear of the country's
opposition movement, according to one journalist based in Osh, a city with a
large Uzbek population. "The reason why Uzbeks play no role in Kyrgyzstan's
opposition movement can be explained by the fact that the opposition movement is
dominated by Kyrgyz nationalists," said the journalist, who requested
anonymity. "The rhetoric of these politicians frightens many Uzbeks."
Uncertainty over the future has already prompted several Uzbek community leaders
to join the pro-presidential movement "Alga, Kyrgyzstan!" (Forward,
Kyrgyzstan!), the journalist added. Their action is meant not only to protect
the status of Uzbeks, but, also, to protect what whatever economic gains that
have been made by the Uzbek community during Akayev's tenure, the journalist
As many Uzbek entrepreneurs see it, political change could pose a threat to
their economic livelihood. "If new people come to power, they will start
extorting money from us, and [the cycle of] corruption will start all over
again," explained Abdurashit, an Osh restaurant owner who gave only his
For all their outward show of support for Akayev, Uzbek voters are not
necessarily content with the status quo. A 2003 poll conducted by the Osh-based
Uzbek Cultural Centre found that more than 60 percent of 1,436 ethnic Uzbek
respondents thought that the government did not do enough for them. Over 79
percent called for the formation of an Uzbek political party, and 78 percent
believed that the Uzbek language should be given the status of an official state
An additional source of discontent is the fact that Uzbeks are underrepresented
in regional and local administrations. "It's time to overcome stereotypes
and improve work" in personnel policy, commented Bakhtyar Fattahov, a
prominent Uzbek leader, in an interview with the government newspaper Slovo
Kyrgyzstana. "In short, the problem exists, and it should not be
But for now, chances for a campaign to address these issues are slim. Top Kyrgyz
officials are reluctant to tackle such a sensitive issue in an election year. In
addition, there is broad concern among Kyrgyz that granting more rights to
Uzbeks would lead to additional demands, including long-suppressed claims for
autonomy. Such a cycle could ultimately give rise to a secessionist movement,
the Kyrgyz thinking goes.
Despite their numbers, Uzbeks have yet to voice a defining set of policy goals,
or mobilize around a single Uzbek leader. Ordinary Uzbeks often see the
community's leaders as having been co-opted by the Kyrgyz government, said the
journalist from Osh, and varying interests hamper the search for replacements.
Geographical differences also pose an obstacle: Uzbeks from Jalal-Abad Province
tend to be more assertive on civil rights issues than are Uzbeks from the Osh,
site of the 1990 riots.
Iran to invest in Kyrgyzstan power engineering
During a recent official visit to Kyrgyzstan, Iranian First Vice President,
Mohammad-Reza Aref, met with Kyrgyz president, Askar Akayev, Prime Minister,
Nikolai Tanayev and the speakers of both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament.
During the meeting, the sides discussed a wide range of issues related to
strengthening bilateral political, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian
cooperation, the press service of the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said, RIA-Novosti
The possibility of attracting Iranian investments to the reconstruction of small
hydro power stations on the Naryn river in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the
implementation of joint projects in tourism and housing construction were on the
agenda for discussion.
Another important issue discussed at the meetings was both sides participation
in the post-war restoration of Afghanistan, where presidential elections were
held on October 9th for the first time since the overthrow of the regime of
Islamic fundamentalists late in 2001.
As a result of Aref's visit to Bishkek, the sides will sign several agreements
on cooperation in electric power engineering and healthcare, as well as the
programme of cooperation in tourism and cultural development for 2004-2006, the
foreign ministry said.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Bishkek, Tehran set to sign economic, trade accords
A Kyrgyz official said on September 28th that the meeting of Iranian and Kyrgyz
economic experts was successful, Iran's State News Agency (IRNA) reported.
Kyrgyz Deputy Communication and Transportation Minister, Azad Ajikov, said the
meeting was held in two sessions and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the
seventh Iran-Kyrgyzstan Joint Economic and Trade Cooperation Commission,
scheduled to be held in Bishkek, was finalised and ready to be signed. The
experts have been able to lift the main obstacles to mutual economic cooperation
and draw up the outlines of the agreement, he added.
He told IRNA that the agreement embraces all the issues related to banking,
customers, communication, energy, industry, engineering and technology. The two
countries' officials are also keen to expand ties in other areas including
scientific, vocational and tourism fields, the Kyrgyz official stated. The two
nations private sectors' representatives also participated in the talks.
Earlier in September, President, Mohammed Khatami met with Kyrgyz President,
Asghar Akayev, on the sidelines of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO)
meeting in Dunshabe. Khatami said that the two nations should use all their
political and economic potentials to expand bilateral cooperation in all areas.
He also said that regional trade blocks have an important role in the world,
adding "ECO members states have many cultural and historical commonalties,
ample natural resources and vast markets and the strengthening of the
organisation will ensure the interests of the countries."
Akayev also said that holding of the joint economic commission in the next few
months will lead to closer ties in all areas. He further welcomed the
participation of the two nations' private sector in projects as being
instrumental in boosting the level of bilateral trade to "twice its present
Trade centre will be built on Kyrgyz-Chinese border: Tanayev
A trade centre is expected to be constructed on the border of Kyrgyzstan and
China in an effort to further advance trade between the two nations, Kyrgyz
Prime Minister, Nikolai Tanayev, said Interfax News Agency reported.
Under the agreement reached with China, both countries will allocate land plots
in the border area for the project. "It means that the centre will be
located not in different areas, but in the middle," he said. It is planned
to build the centre near the Torugart and Irkeshtam border checkpoints in
northern Kyrgyzstan. "All legislative issues will be considered by the
governments of Kyrgyzstan and China in a parallel manner. A similar centre has
already been opened on the border of Kazkastna and China," Tanayev said.
Taking into account the fact that Kyrgyzstan and China are members of the World
Trade Organisation, "any obstacles hampering the entry of Kyrgyz products'
into the Chinese market have been removed," the prime minister stated.
Our analysts and
editorial staff have many years experience in analysing and reporting
events in these nations. This knowledge is available in the form of
geopolitical and/or economic country reports on any individual or grouping
of countries. Such reports may be bespoke to the specification of clients
or by access to one of our existing specialised reports.
For further information email: