Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 291 - (30/03/05)
Elections to parliament go as expected
Voters cast ballots on February 27th in Tajikistan's parliamentary elections
that pitted a fledgling opposition against the powerful ruling party of
strongman President Emomali Rakhmonov. Election officials said that the turnout
exceeded 68 percent, more than the minimum 50 percent needed to make the vote
Six parties contested 63 seats in Parliament's lower house, with 41 lawmakers
chosen through direct voting. The other 22 seats were divided among parties
winning at least 5 per cent of the vote.
Rakhmonov's National Democratic Party, as was widely expected, kept its
majority. The president's only real challenger is the Islamic Renaissance Party,
the core of the civil war opposition and now the only opposition party in
Parliament, reduced by various crooked measures to just two seats. The other
opposition parties have scant resources and few candidates.
Critics accuse Rakhmonov, who came to power during the ex-Soviet country's civil
war of the 1990s, of stifling dissent. They say recent steps -- such as a
referendum two years ago giving Rakhmonov the right to seek re-election until
2020 -- threaten the country's stability and hopes for democracy.
UK, EU and OSCE critical "Not a Free and Fair Election"!
British Foreign Office Minister, Bill Rammell, said in response to an EU
statement on March 4th on the elections in Tajikistan and the OSCE's interim
conclusions: "The parliamentary elections in Tajikistan were marred, among
other things, by a lack of political balance on electoral commissions and a
notable absence of an independent press. These are essential ingredients of a
free and fair election process. I fully support the statement by the EU
Presidency and the OSCE that the elections failed to meet key international
"In advance of the elections we had been encouraged by the improvements in
the election law and by the registration of six parties and independent
candidates. These positive signs were undermined by widespread irregularities on
election day including proxy voting, impersonation of other voters and
obstruction of access to observers."
"I urge the Government of Tajikistan to take these findings into account.
The UK stands ready to work with Tajikistan in its pursuit of more democratic
Yet, in the past several months, authorities shut down several independent and
opposition newspapers and launched intimidating and disruptive investigations of
two opposition party leaders. The pre-election period was marred by opposition
allegations that authorities were harassing their members, limiting their access
to state media, arbitrarily detaining campaign activists and threatening to halt
development projects or aid to areas that vote for the opposition.
The leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party, Muhiddin Kabiri, alleged that his
party's election observers were barred from polling stations across the country.
"For a politician this is going to be a long, hard day, but for the people
it is a day of yet another injustice and falsifications," Kabiri told The
Commenting on opposition and international observers' criticism of the
elections, Rakhmonov warned that it is "dangerous to force democracy."
"One has to take into account every little people's mentality, culture,
traditions and history -- one has to remember that we are Asians," he said.
Five facts about Tajikistan
To put some flesh on these reflections of the president, it is as well to
recognise five facts about Tajikistan, which indicate the sort of place it is:
* Tajikistan covers 143,100 square km (55,300 square miles). The Pamir
mountains, topping 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) and known as the "Roof of the
World", make up more than 90 per cent of its territory. It has a population
of seven million people.
* Tajiks are ethnically akin to Persians and their language is similar to Farsi.
* After the fall of the Soviet Union, civil war broke out in 1992 and the
five-year conflict claimed 100,000 lives. In 1997, Rakhmonov's Russia-backed
secular government signed a general peace agreement with the United Tajik
Opposition which was led by Islamic guerrillas.
* Some 900,000 people, half the work force, labour abroad. Salaries at home are
$25 a month.
* Tajikistan is the main export route for Afghan heroin to Russia and into
Europe. Heroin costs US$1,000 per kg (2.2lb) at the Tajik border but soars to
US$100,000 to US$300,000 per kg when the drug reaches Western Europe
The sixth fact
The Tajiks voted overwhelmingly in February for Rakhmonov, the sixth and the
really salient fact about Tajikistan. He is there for as long as he wants.
Washington will not object. He is their man in Central Asia, since he agreed to
a US base there which ostensibly was to counter the Taleban. Now that is no
longer militarily compelling, yet the US shows no signs of moving out, it can be
seen to be a part of the Pentagon's world-wide military reach strategy.
Tajikistan of course borders western China, as well as Afghanistan and the
former Soviet Central Asia. As can be seen in other theatres, US presidential
calls for democracy are not allowed to extend to autocracies which have a
military use for the US.
RusAl, Lahmayer sign deal on Rogun HPS project
The Russian Aluminium Company (RusAl) and Tajikistan's Ministry of Energy signed
an agreement in Dushanbe on February 1st with the German Lahmayer company on the
elaboration of a feasibility study for the construction of a Rogun hydropower
station (RHPS) on the Tajik river Vaksh, Tajik Minister, Dzhurabek Nurmakhmatov,
said, Interfax News Agency reported.
He stressed that the German company had won an international tender to select a
contractor to work out a feasibility study.
Nurmakhmatov said the agreement was signed by the directors general of the RusAl
and Lahmayer for the Russian and German sides. He pointed out that, actually, a
feasibility study for the RHPS is already available but it had been prepared way
back in Soviet times.
"Nowadays, no reputable bank would agree to lend credits for the
construction project on the strength of such (out-dated) documentation. A
newly-elaborated feasibility study will be up to international standards,"
the minister emphasised.
The feasibility study will include both an estimate of expenditure on the work
already done at RHPS project and an amount of investments necessary to finalise
the construction, Nurmakhmatov said.
The construction of the RHPS began in March 1981 but was suspended in 1993 for
lack of funds and due to the difficult socio-political situation in the
republic. By that time, about US$802m worth of capital investments were used.
About US$1.4bn are necessary to finalise the RHPS construction. According to an
agreement signed on October 16th, 2004 RusAl intends to invest US$560m to
complete the construction of the RHPS.
OSCE, French agency sign water management deal for Tajikistan
The OSCE centre in Dushanbe and French NGO Agency for Technical Cooperation and
Development (ACTED) signed a memorandum on February 4th utilising US$900,000 to
help villagers in rural areas of Tajikistan get more clean water, improve water
infrastructures and obtain basic knowledge about ecological agriculture.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has allocated the
US$900,000 for the Community-based Integrated Water Resource Management project.
"The management of water resources is a vital problem in Tajikistan and
this project will contribute to its solution at the local level," Andrey
Shugurov, acting head of the OSCE Centre in Dushanbe, said after the signing
ceremony, Irinnews reported.
"In addition, the project will help train teachers and improve the
curricula of Tajikistan's secondary schools by preparing environmental textbooks
and other educational material," he added. The project will also help local
communities ensure better health and quality of life for villagers.
People at grass-root level, especially youth, will be selected from 60 villages
in the three most problematic regions and training would be provided in managing
water resources, using new irrigation technologies, and improving
infrastructures for drinking water and irrigation, Tojinisso Nasyrova, deputy
chairperson of the state committee on environment and forestry said: "The
project will target villages in Khatlon, Sughd and Rasht Valley, where over 80
per cent of the population lives in poverty. The inhabitants of the villages
will be the direct beneficiaries of the project." Ismoil Safarov, director
of the department of science of the ministry of education, added:
"Tajikistan appreciates the help of the OSCE in the ecological education of
US offers US$65m in assistance to Tajikistan
The US government gave Tajikistan US$65m in aid in the 2004 financial year, the
US embassy to Tajikistan said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
The focus has shifted from humanitarian aid, which a recent civil war had made
top priority, to promotion of democracy, streamlining social welfare and
improving the investment climate. In particular, a law enforcement reform is
helping to lock off the Tajik frontier to mass destruction weapon smugglers,
drug traffickers and other criminals. The 2004 aid was distributed as 10.2m Euro
for democratic development, 12.6m Euro for economic and social reforms, 6.9m
Euro to protect law and order, 20.5m Euro humanitarian aid and 500,000 Euro for