Books on Tajikistan
Update No: 310 - (26/10/06)
Incumbent President will be easily re-elected
Tajikistan's presidential election is due to take place on November 6th. There
is little doubt of the outcome.
Presidential terms run for seven years in Tajikistan and the presidency is
all-powerful, as elsewhere in neighbouring Central Asia, except strife-torn
Afghanistan, a law to itself. The incumbent president, Imomali Rahmonov, is a
reasonable man, who tolerates a certain degree of opposition. Still, he does not
believe in Tajikistan having too much of a good thing in that regard.
The Tajik Central Election Committee announced on October 4th that the president
has already handed in the required number of signatures to be registered as a
candidate in November's presidential election. According to election
regulations, candidates must gather signatures from 5 percent of eligible voters
in the country, meaning each presidential hopeful needs 160,000 signatures.
Rahmonov reportedly had more than 510,000.
Ashurboy Imomov is the chairman of the Social Committee for Democratic Process
and a law professor. He is also a former chairman of Tajikistan's Constitutional
Court. He said legislation has been approved that helps Rahmonov stay in office.
Amendments to the constitution in 2003 gave Rahmonov the chance to run for two
more terms in office, meaning he could be Tajikistan's president until 2020. But
Imomov warned that the country could find it difficult to replace Rahmonov if
circumstances arose that required a new leader.
"Here I see one deficiency in democracy [in Tajikistan]," he said.
"It is that when a society places a leader on a pedestal, this leader
believes that there is no one else but him and that society cannot name another
A Foregone Conclusion?
Only one other candidate of the five who intend to compete against Rahmonov
has thus far gathered the necessary amount of signatures -- Olimjon Boboev of
the Party of Economic Reform.
The process of verifying those signatures continued until October 12, but some
feel the effort is a waste of time for Rahmonov's opponents. One of them,
Saimuddin Dustov, is the chairman of the Information Centre for Democracy and
National Progress, who made the following comment during a roundtable
discussion. "Analysis shows that today the opposition political parties of
Tajikistan do not have the strength to compete for power in Tajikistan and the
upcoming elections will lack much enthusiasm because it will be an obvious
victory for Rahmonov," he said.
Many analysts have pointed out the general weakness of Tajikistan's opposition
parties. Independent Tajik political analyst Saidahmat Qalandar said
Tajikistan's opposition parties have failed to use the seven years since the
last presidential elections to strengthen their positions.
Opposition Called Weak
"These still young and inexperienced parties and movements have had
opportunities during the last seven years to present figures equal to Rahmonov's,
but this has not been done," he said. "Our society does not know its
leaders." In addition, some potential opposition leaders such as Mahmadruzi
Iskandarov, Ghaffor Mirzoev, and Yakub Salimov are currently serving jail terms
under criminal charges that supporters describe as trumped up.
Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRP),
was extremely well known in Tajikistan. But Nuri died in August, leaving a
leadership crisis in his party. The IRP announced in September that it would not
field a candidate in this presidential election.
IRP member Zarafo Rahmoni was at the roundtable and conceded that Rahmonov's
popularity makes him practically unbeatable in the November election.
"The president of Tajikistan...can count on his popularity in
society," she said. "All the movement and progress that has been made
is related to the president. [Rahmonov's] popularity lies in this."
Forget a democratic outcome
There are also those who feel the upcoming election, like those before them,
simply cannot be fair. One such person is Dodojon Atovullo, a veteran opposition
figure who is the editor of the opposition newspaper "Charoghi Ruz."
Atovullo's extremely vocal opposition to Rahmonov has forced him to live in
self-imposed exile in Moscow for years, but he keeps in touch with events in
Tajikistan and participated in the roundtable via telephone. Atovullo said there
are currently no conditions in Tajikistan that would give any hope that there
will be a free and fair election next month.
"I don't believe that in Tajikistan it is possible to have free elections
because we know how earlier elections were conducted under Rahmonov," he
said. "And what kind of presidential election can we speak of in a country
where there is no freedom, no freedom of speech; where political parties cannot
work freely and where the people are not free?"
Abdulloh Qodiri is the head of the Tajik president's centre for strategic
research. Qodiri said one should not compare the upcoming election to polls held
in Western democracies, but rather admit that democracy in Central Asia is
unique. "In the countries of Central Asia they have their own democracy and
mentality and every election in this region differs from what is happening in
European countries," he said. "Therefore, the election in Tajikistan
will be held according to Tajik standards."
There have never been more than two candidates running in a Tajik presidential
race, and the initial field of six was bound to be reduced during the
verification of signatures and other registration formalities. That is bringing
comments from the disqualified candidates and their parties, but it is not very
likely to affect the outcome, which seems to be a foregone conclusion.
Five oppositional websites closed ahead of poll
The regime is taking no chances, however. Tajikistan's five oppositional
websites were closed on October 14th. An official of the country's largest
provider service Tajiktelecom Technology confirmed this fact in an interview
with Itar-Tass on terms of anonymity.
The access to these websites was blocked at the order of the communications
regulation agency at the Tajik Communications Ministry, the official said. Such
decision has been taken "in compliance with a national concept of
information security developed in 2003," the agency said in a statement
copied to Itar-Tass.
"At present, the access to confidential information may be found and
propaganda and agitation, fomentation of social, national, racial and religious
hatred and hostility may leak through Tajikistan's Internet segments," the
The agency's authorities deem it necessary "to filter and block access to
websites aimed at disrupting the state policy via information resources, and
create all conditions for harmonious development of the republic's information
infrastructure." This excessive wordiness and telling use of the expression
'harmonious,' is to make it clear that all media will be state controlled, and
that all news therefore will be propagandised.
Earlier this year, Tajikistan imposed a ban on BBC's broadcasting as it said it
violated the country's effective legislation on foreign mass media' s activities
in Tajikistan. The printing of a weekly by the oppositional Democratic Party was
Tajikistan's ambitious energy projects cause tension with Uzbekistan
Tajikistan's efforts to develop its hydro-power sector and to boost
aluminium production are causing a spike in tension with neighbouring
Uzbek authorities have used punitive measures of late to express their
displeasure with existing Tajik policies, as well as future plans. For example,
Tashkent is continuing to prevent the delivery of Kyrgyz electricity to one of
Tajikistan's major industrial concerns, the Tajik Aluminium Plant, located in
the southwestern city of Tursunzade.
On September 28th, Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov sent a letter to the Uzbek
government seeking to resolve the supply issue. Uzbek authorities curtly
informed Oqilov that a response would not be forthcoming before October 9th, the
Avesta news agency reported. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan cut off natural gas supplies
to Tajikistan in late September, and wouldn't re-open the pipeline until
Dushanbe repaid almost half of its outstanding US$4.5 million debt for earlier
Adding to the bilateral acrimony was a late September incident involving Tajik
and Uzbek border guards. Tashkent accused Tajik border guards of opening fire on
Uzbek forces "without warning," supposedly to protect a group of Tajik
civilians trying to cross the border illegally into Uzbek territory, the
AVN-Interfax news agency reported. The Uzbek soldiers were reportedly trying to
take the Tajik trespassers into custody when the shooting began near the Khavast
border post. The deputy chief of Tajikistan's State Committee for the Protection
of the State Border, Lt. Gen Safarali Sayfulloyev, dismissed the Uzbek
allegation as "not corresponding to reality," Avesta reported.
Earlier, Sayfulloyev said Tajik border guards took an Uzbek soldier captive
while disrupting an Uzbek effort to unilaterally establish a security buffer
zone in a disputed area of the frontier. "This sort of border incident
happens very often," Sayfulloyev told Avesta. Only about one-third of the
almost 1,000-mile-long Tajik-Uzbek frontier has been demarcated.
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have had a contentious relationship for years, driven
in large measure by perceptions in Tashkent that Tajik President Rahmonov's
administration was not strong enough to deal adequately with Islamic radicalism,
which emerged as a regional threat in the late 1990s. As Central Asia's most
populous state, and possessing the region's largest army, Uzbekistan has
routinely bullied Tajikistan. But some regional observers believe the dynamic
governing bilateral relations could shift significantly if Tajikistan manages to
implement its economic development vision.
New Energy Superpower
Over the past two years, Rahmonov's administration has made a major push to
attract foreign investment to the power-generating sector. Russia, as the new
energy superpower, has so far shown the most interest in investment, as part of
an overall effort to re-establish Moscow as Tajikistan's chief strategic
partner. Russian financial assistance will enable completion of the Sangtuda-1
hydro-power station on the Vakhsh River. In addition, the Russian
aluminum-making conglomerate, RUSAL, signed a US$2-billion investment deal in
2004, under which it will finish the Rogun power station.
Iran, which shares strong cultural ties with Tajikistan, is also contributing
substantial investment. During a visit by Rahmonov to Tehran in early 2006,
Iranian officials agreed to provide financing for the construction of the
Sangtuda-2 hydro-power station.
Interest in the development of Tajikistan's hydropower sector stands to grow
significantly, given that Tajik electricity-export potential plays a central
role in a US plan to forge stronger ties between Central and South Asia.
Tashkent tends to view Tajik development efforts as a threat to Uzbekistan's
leadership role in Central Asia. Water politics has long been a source of
regional discord. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan provide the overwhelming share of
the region's water, while Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are major consumers. An
enhanced ability to harness its water reserves would potentially give Tajikistan
considerable negotiating leverage in its dealings with Uzbekistan.
Uzbek officials appear especially concerned over RUSAL's investment in
Tajikistan. After the Russian conglomerate announced plans to modernize the
Tursunzade aluminum smelter, Uzbekistan initiated a massive media campaign,
complaining that effluvia generated by the Tajik plant was causing widespread
environmental damage to Uzbek agricultural lands.
Tajik experts and policymakers believe Uzbekistan's present move to disrupt
electricity supplies to the Tursunzade plant is connected with a desire to
hinder the facility's modernization. Many in Dushanbe also say Uzbek officials
are exerting pressure directly on RUSAL to scale back the company's investment
plans. They suggest that Tashkent may be behind a disagreement between
Tajikistan and RUSAL over the height and type of the Rogun dam. Immediately
following a meeting between RUSAL chief Oleg Deripaska and Uzbek President Islam
Karimov, the Russian company revised its dam plans, saying it wanted to build a
280-meter-tall dam, instead of one 335 meters tall as originally projected.
The following is a suitable commentary on the state of democracy in Tajikistan:-
Good-Bye, Democrats! Islam Karimov's Lessons for President Rahmonov
by Alexander Sadikov
On September 29th, the Ministry of Justice registered Masud Sobirov as chairman
of the Democratic Party (DPT), thus adding another page to the Tajik
government's record of marginalizing the opposition.
The story began in April 2006, when Masud Sobirov established "Vatan"
("Motherland") faction within DPT. Although seen by the DPT mainstream
as an illegitimate splinter, Masud Sobirov explained his efforts as an attempt
to rebuild the party's influence.
One of the oldest parties in the country, DPT has been in deep crisis since
early 2005, when its leader and main sponsor Mahmadruzi Iskandarov was sentenced
to 23 years in prison on various charges, including terrorism and embezzlement.
Since Iskandarov's arrest, DPT's aging leadership has concentrated its efforts
on attempts to release him. Meanwhile, the party's political influence declined
rapidly. During the February 2005 parliamentary election, DPT failed to make it
past the 5 per cent threshold needed for representation in the parliament.
Growing dissatisfaction with the DPT's low performance that emerged from inside
was actively fuelled by the government.
The consequent split within the party in April 2006 was thus to be expected.
Unexpected though was the newborn faction's focus on contesting the DPT
On August 27, Sobirov's wing held what they called an "extraordinary
congress" of the party. Announced illegitimate by the DPT presidium and
conflicting with the party's constituent documents, the "congress"
named Masud Sobirov the chairman of Democratic Party.
Decisions of the "congress", with their legitimacy questioned by
experts and lawyers, sparked intensive debate in Tajikistan. The shocked
democrats were quieted by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which announced that
the only chairman of DPT recognized by the state was its jailed leader
An official in the ministry was quoted as saying:
Current situation around the Democratic Party of Tajikistan is an internal
problem of its members. Ministry of Justice is not in a position to resolve this
MoJ's decision of September 29th to register Sobirov as the chairman therefore
filled the mainstream democrats with indignation.
DPT Presidium accused the ministry of illegal interference in the party's
internal affairs. The party's deputy chairman Rahmatullo Valiev suggested that
the MoJ's decision was prompted by DPT's intention to boycott the upcoming
Someone "on the top" did not like our decision to boycott the
election. This "someone" decided to debar us from political struggle
and make Masud Sobirov chairman of the Democratic Party.
Just a week before the controversial decision, DPT Presidium announced that they
would not field a candidate in the upcoming election. They criticized the
government for election manipulation and suggested that the upcoming ballot
would be "illegitimate and unconstitutional." Masud Sobirov, on the
contrary, suggested that "his Democratic Party" would actively
participate in the vote.
While some experts argue that MoJ's verdict is a punishment for democrats'
unwillingness to take part in the election, this action was perhaps only modest
part of Imomali Rahmonov's wider strategy aimed at marginalizing opposition
parties in the country.
President Rahmonov, who has been consolidating his power since the end of the
civil war, is very sensitive towards any attempt to ease his grip on power.
Opposition parties were always perceived by him as a threat. However, close
attention of foreign donors and international watchdogs made him tolerate the
presence of opposition and maintain a vision of democratic institutions in
This policy has recently begun to change. Confronted with the need to tolerate
Imomali Rahmonov realized that the authoritarian regime of his Uzbek neighbour
Islam Karimov has much to learn from.
International observers describe Uzbekistan as one of the most authoritarian
post-Soviet states. Uzbek government is known for absolute intolerance of any
sort of opposition. Yet Islam Karimov tries to maintain the visibility of
multiparty democracy by having five state-funded political parties competing for
representation in the parliament. The only problem here is that all five are so
called "pocket" parties controlled by Karimov, while truly independent
political parties have never been able to register.
Uzbekistan's approach to the multiparty system represented by "pocket"
parties must have had a great appeal for Imomali Rahmonov and approved for
realization in Tajikistan. In autumn 2005, just months ahead of parliamentary
elections, the Ministry of Justice registered two parties -Agrarian Party and
the Party of Economic Reforms. These parties have never had independent
capacity. However, similarly to Uzbek parties, they claim to represent the
interests of farmers and entrepreneurs. Neither opposition parties, nor
political analysts have ever doubted governmental affiliation of the both
Rahmonov's new policy aims not only to create new parties, but also to transform
the older ones. In June 2004, government's awkward interference led by advisor
to the president Qurbon Vosiev fueled schism in the Socialist Party (SPT).
Qurbon Vosiev and Abduhalim Ghafforov, public servants expelled from SPT in
2000, summoned an "extraordinary congress" of the party, which
dismissed SPT's then-chairman Mirhuseyn Narziev and appointed Abduhalim
Ghafforov instead. Officially registered by MoJ, Ghafforov's Socialist Party
joined the club of organizations loyal to the regime.
The club also includes the president's People's Democratic Party and Communist
Party, whose loyalty is rewarded with minor representation in the parliament.
The new DPT will soon join the club, thus bringing its membership to six of the
eight registered parties in the country.
The only remaining opposition parties - Islamic Revival Party (IRP) and
Social-Democratic Party (SDP) - will not be able to contend Rahmonov's grip of
power. But their presence will be appreciated by Rahmonov, who needs them to
complete the picture of multiparty Tajikistan for international consumption.
There is another party that Rahmonov will never be able to control- the
ill-famed Khizb ut-Tahrir. Though its members are still few and its impact on
Tajikistan's politics minor, this can change soon, not least due to the regime's
policy. Imomali Rahmonov will repeat Islam Karimov's mistake unless he
understands that in a country where the political opposition is not allowed to
operate freely, radical Islamic groups remain the only outlet for public
Central Asia declares itself a nuclear weapons free zone
The five countries of Central Asia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have signed a treaty creating a nuclear weapons free
zone in their lands. Semipalatinsk, the former Soviet nuclear test site in
eastern Kazakstan, was the scene for the treaty's historic signing on September
8th, New Europe reported.
Under the treaty, the five countries have committed themselves to ban the
production, acquisition and deployment of nuclear weapons and their components.
The treaty does not prohibit the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
"This is our contribution to global security," Kazakstan' Foreign
Minister, Kasymzhomart Tokayev, said. "It will become an impetus for the
coordinated efforts of the world community in non-proliferation and prevention
of the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. It will
undoubtedly become an important step in the development of peaceful nuclear
Document to promote SCO integration signed in Dushanbe
Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, was on a two day official visit to Tajikistan to
attend the fifth Meeting of Prime Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation
The Chinese premier's visit to Tajikistan, the first in past 14 years, will
exert significant impact on the neighbourly friendship between the two
countries, officials with the Chinese delegation said, Interfax News Agency
In a written statement delivered at the airport, the Chinese premier said that
relations between China and Tajikistan have maintained healthy and smooth
development since the two countries forged diplomatic relations 14 years ago. He
said that the two countries have supported each other on major issues and
cooperate with each other on international and regional affairs.
During the visit, Wen held negotiations with Tajikistan President, Emomali
Rahmonov, and Prime Minister, Akil Akilov, on bilateral ties and issues of
common concern. During the visit, a series of cooperation documents was signed,
Chinese official said. In Dushanbe, Wen also joined leaders on September 15th
from other SCO member nations -- Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and
Kazakstan in the fifth prime minister's meeting of the regional group. The
meeting discussed the consensus reached by the heads of SCO members at the June
summit in Shanghai.
The prime ministers of SCO member-countries have underscored the need to further
push for integration processes aimed at simplifying and relaxing administrative
and customs rules regulating international transit via the organisation's
The heads of government said in a communiqué signed after their session on
September 15th that they consider it advisable to speed up the drafting of an
intergovernmental agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs
issues and to hold a session of the SCO's customs service heads within the set
timeframe. There is also a need to continue work on an agreement between the
organisation's governments to encourage and mutually protect investment, based
on the experience of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in this area.
The SCO prime ministers also ordered the task force on the fuel and energy
sector to work rapidly, together with the SCO secretariat, to study the
possibility of forming the organisation's Energy Club. "SCO is confidently
proceeding along its integration path," Russian Prime Minister Mikhail
Fradkov told a news conference after the session. "The range of cooperation
avenues is expanding," he said, adding that steps are being taken to
translate these ideas into reality.
The China Development Bank will extend a 10 million Euro loan to Tajikistan for
advancing agriculture, the Tajik presidential press service reports. Head of the
Tajik National Bank Murodali Alimardonov and China Development Bank Governor
Chen Yuan, who arrived in Dushanbe with the Chinese delegation for the meeting
of SCO prime ministers signed a corresponding agreement on September 15th.
"The sides have discussed the prospects of cooperation between Tajikistan
and China in advancing hydro power engineering, cotton processing and the
extraction of minerals," the press service said.
"China and Tajikistan regard the interbank association of SCO member-states
as an important factor in expanding economic relations. They voiced satisfaction
with new opportunities for further cooperation in the framework of the SCO,"
he said. In the first eight months Chinese-Tajik trade turnover jumped 44.4
percent year-on-year, to 85 million Euro. Exports of Tajik commodities amounted
to 6.4 million Euro and imports to 78.6 million Euro.