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UK Election: Venal Sticks His Oar In

2 Jun

Controversial election observer Lord Venal is back in the UK to monitor next week’s General Election.

With his good friend Theresa Maybot nosediving in the opinion polls, Venal singled out London’s Evening Standard for criticism.

“This left-wing rag is showing unprecedented bias against the Supreme Leader. Its polls are fake news designed to tarnish the image of our great leader at this crucial time in Albion’s history,” he said, referring to the newspaper that is edited by former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gideon Osborne – a sworn enemy from within the Tory party ranks of the Maybot.

“My own polling shows the Maybot on 83%, the loony lefties on 5% and the Lib Dems and Greens on 2% with the other parties accounting for the rest of the votes.”

As a staunch Tory, Venal was strictly on message when he parroted: “We need to stand united; Brexit means Brexit. Only strong and stable government can deliver a stable and strong government.”

Venal recently courted yet more controversy when he urged the UK to follow Central Asia’s lead and send the undeserving poor and public sector workers to the fields to harvest strawberries to make up for an expected fall in cheap labour following Brexit.

“Teachers get six weeks summer holiday – who else gets this much time off? We should tear them away from their Guardians and put these lazy layabouts to work in the fields of Albion; at a stroke this would slash immigration by thousands,” he told anyone who would listen whilst holding court in his local boozer, pint in one hand, Daily Mail in the other.

The good Lord is hoping to profit big time from Brexit. He has been in Central Asia drumming up business for the independent UK, offering shortbread for Tico Tuk Tuks. He recently removed his Uz Daewoo Tico conversion plant from Tyneside to Cyprus to continue benefitting from EU subsidies after Britain’s pullout from the bloc.

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Fathers and Daughters

23 Mar

Ivanka Trump’s recent move into an office in the West Wing, despite her earlier protestations that she would not be taking a role in Daddy’s administration, has brought to mind another high-profile presidential daughter of recent times, Uzbekistan’s Gulnara Karimova.

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Fathers and Daughters: Islam Karimov, Donald Trump, Gulnara Karimova and Ivanka Trump (photo borrowed from a tweet via @AmbKennedy_ret)

In American politics, there is little precedent for a president’s daughter taking on an advisory position in the White House. Maybe it is fitting to look at the rise and subsequent fate of the daughter of Uzbekistan’s late president Islam Karimov.

Gulnara Karimova, also known as GooGoosha, was once a high-flyer in Uzbekistan, dabbling in telecoms, show-business, high fashion, charity and construction – some even spoke of her as being next-in-line to the throne, but she suffered a spectacular fall from grace in March 2014 when she was placed under house arrest in Tashkent following a huge corruption scandal. Little has been heard of her since.

Keeping this in mind, Ivanka had better make sure she doesn’t get the wrong side of Daddy Trump, who is said to model himself on Karimov, the strongman president who ruled Uzbekistan for 25 years until his demise in September 2016.

Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is said to be modelled on Karimov’s “O’zbekiston kelajagi buyuk davlat” (Uzbekistan, the state with a great future).

These two cantankerous old guys both share a hatred of the free press, are prone to making bizarre off the cuff remarks, bear grudges indefinitely and are fiercely opposed to what they see as Islamic extremism.

Ivanka should be mindful of GooGoosha’s fate, or else she may find herself locked up in a shed in the White House grounds.

Central Asia: Breaking the 100% Barrier

17 Feb

Presidents in Central Asia have been striving over the past 25 years to break through the mythical 100% of the popular vote threshold in elections. Once believed to be mathematically impossible, experts now think that with advances in technology the day may soon come when politicians can exceed 100% of the vote.

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Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov romped to victory once again with 97.69% of the vote

“As we have seen in recent elections in Central Asia, the incumbents are getting ever closer to the magical figure of 100%. Most recently, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov picked up 97.69% of the vote in Turkmenistan’s elections, held on 12 February,” Lord Venal, a seasoned Central Asian election observer told kazaxia.

“And this was bettered in Kazakhstan in 2015 when President Nursultan Nazarbayev got 97.75%. So, yes, we could soon see the barrier being broken.”

Advances in fixing the vote has meant that scoring more than 100% should not be a problem in the future.

“Ballot stuffing, vote stealing, carousel voting – we’ve all seen these methods used over the years and these methods are becoming more sophisticated. Why not stuff in more votes than there are registered voters, it’s entirely possible,” Gary Kefali, a politics guru told kazaxia.

However, time may be against Nazarbayev – at 76 he may not have too many more chances at growing his vote beyond 98%. Berdimuhamedov, by contrast, is a relative youngster at only 59 and so he could have many more goes at reaching the Holy Grail of electoral success.

Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan’s incumbents offer the best hopes of breaching 100%. Relative newcomer, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan picked up 88.61% in 2016.  Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon grabbed only 83.92% of the vote in 2013. In Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambaev is a long way off as he got a measly 63.2% in 2011, and he won’t be running again anyway.

“President Nazarbayev should be up for election [in 2020?] before President Berdimuhamedov, and I foresee officials doing their utmost to make him the first leader ever to exceed 100% of the popular vote,” Venal concluded.

Uzbekistan’s Brave New World?

5 Dec

Lord Venal is just back from his latest election monitoring mission in Uzbekistan. He was part of the unofficial Non-Aligned Observation Missions International (Naomi) group which visited the country as it prepared to anoint Shavkat Mirziyoyev as Islam Karimov’s rightful heir.

He’s kindly contributed this piece to kazaxia.

Ah, Uzbekistan! What a show it put on as the reins of power passed to Shavkat Mirziyoyev. I was part of a group of assorted Lords and bigwigs that were flown in to legitimise the transfer of power. As usual, the Uzbeks pulled out all the stops to make our stay a comfortable and memorable experience.

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A polling station in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

We were kitted out with regulation observer rose-tinted spectacles and whizzed by train to Samarkand to pay our respects to two tyrants. The more recently deceased one was doing a roaring trade compared with the earlier model, Amir Timur aka Tamerlane, who in comparison was receiving a modest trickle of visitors.

The local flower sellers were doing good business – a possible opportunity for Britain’s gardeners to exploit in these post-Brexit times. Indeed, there could be many opportunities in Uzbekistan for Britain’s exporters as the new president looks like a character we can do business with.

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Mr Miriziyoyev has good contacts with figures from the world of alt-business in Tashkent – this enthusiastic alt-businessman even shared a photo of himself on social media,  squeezed into a tee-shirt proudly displaying the president’s image.

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The election saw a campaign to eradicate the ancient local tradition of “one man, all the family’s votes” with the novel concept of “one person, one vote.” Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit under the weather on polling day, after having over-indulged in plov and local  beverages the night before, so I am unable to confirm the success of this initiative as the polling station had closed by the time I got there.

As to the result, once again, in the year of the monkey, the pundits got it wrong  – our very own Gary Kefali had predicted a win for Khatamjon Ketmonov. Instead, Uzbekistan will venture into its brave new world with Mr Mirziyoyev at the helm. Maybe next time Theresa May’s in town, she could pop in for a cup of tea and discuss some mutually-beneficial trade deals with the new boss.

 

 

 

 

Is a Trump-style Upset on the Cards in Uzbekistan?

2 Dec

2016 has been a year of surprises in the political sphere, and could we be about to see another shock as Uzbekistan goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a successor to its late president Islam Karimov?

As the year comes to a close, kazaxia’s politics guru, Gary Kefali, has been in Tashkent to gauge the mood and he’s found some astounding evidence that another upset could be on the cards.

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Repairing the presidency in Uzbekistan via a four horse race

While all the experts are predicting a walkover for former prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who is acting president, Kefali’s  straw poll of people he’s bumped into indicates a victory for dark horse candidate, Khatamjon Ketmonov, despite all other signs pointing to red-hot favourite Mirziyoyev.

It would be no surprise if this happened – the year of the monkey has already delivered many shocks – its first surprise was in March when Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was returned to power with 98% of the popular vote – he’d been widely tipped to get 97%. Then in June, the UK voted to leave the EU, a move that the pollsters and pundits missed.

Fast forward to the USA in November and the cheeky monkey had another trick up its sleeve as Donald Trump lost out to Hilary Clinton in terms of votes cast but still won the presidency, an upset hastened by America’s arcane electoral college system. Again, the pollsters and pundits called it wrong giving Trump little chance of victory.

Lord Venal, who is in Tashkent as an unofficial election observer, has been gauging the mood in the nightclubs of Tashkent – Lord Venal’s impeccable source for keeping his finger on the pulse (literally at times) – is showing an increasing likelihood of a Trump-style upset in Uzbekistan’s 4 December presidential poll.

Lord Venal has heard repeated whingeing about an out-of-touch, self-serving political elite, intent on amassing ever-greater wealth at the expense of the hard-working masses. They have seen their standard of living fall relentlessly as the rich get richer. The elite simply don’t understand the ordinary guy – and even show contempt for him, is the constant refrain. The elite is backed by the Mainstream Media (known here too as the MSM), which relentlessly backs its own.

Calls are growing to “drain the swamp” in Tashkent’s government district. Proposals are increasing heard to build a wall on the border with Kyrgyzstan to keep illegal migrants out. Some have even gone as far as to call to lock up some of the leading candidates.

Lord Venal points out that few correctly predicted that Brexit would triumph in Britain, let alone that Donald Trump could prevail in the US over a tried and tested candidate with years of political and government experience. But if the word in the Tashkent nightclubs can be believed, a similar upset in Uzbekistan is not out of the question.

(Lord Venal adopts a policy of strict neutrality in all elections he monitors. Any hospitality offered by governments plays no role in any assessment he issues. A careful reading of his conclusions on earlier elections will show no influence from visits to restaurants, casinos and nightclubs, or gifts of carpets, caviar or jewellery designed by presidential daughters.)

 

Tajikistan: Notes from the Inside

26 May

Whiling away the final hours before his 4 am flight out of Tajikistan in a pleasant enough nightclub in Dushanbe after a heavy few days of referendum monitoring, Lord Venal borrowed a piece of paper to note down the phone numbers of some very helpful ladies who might be of assistance next time he is on a monitoring visit. Only later did his assistant translate what was on the other side, and it appears to be the first page of minutes of a cabinet meeting on the day after the referendum. Lord Venal cannot vouch for its authenticity, but readers might find it rather charming.

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REPUBLIC OF TAJIKISTAN

23 May 2016

Special Cabinet meeting to review preliminary results of 22 May 2016 referendum

Chair: President of the Republic

Present: Prime Minister and deputies, Interior Minister, Justice Minister, Defence Minister, Chairman of National Security Committee, Chief of Anti-Corruption Agency, Chief of Staff

President: Thank you for rushing here today – I know the whole cabinet could not make it. I think we can say that the referendum yesterday went very well. I was touched by the extent of the people’s support.

Chief of Staff: Yes, well done Dad.

Chief of Anti-Corruption Agency: Yes Dad, that was a good bit of work.

President: Now don’t you start getting ideas. I’m still going to be fit and healthy in 2020.

Chief of Staff: You tell him – I remember when he was born. What if I put all those photos of him up on Instagram? That would stop any chances he ever thought he’d have.

Chief of Anti-Corruption Agency: Look that’s not fair. And you used to boss me around when Mum wasn’t looking.

President: Look, kids, calm down. It was only a referendum. We can have them any time we want. But what we need to do now [text cuts off here]

 

Kazakhstan: Tractor Spat Splits Commies

18 Mar

Kazakhstan’s communists have been rocked by a tractor controversy ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election.

When the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan kicked off the election season with an anti-Western stunt little did they expect that it would cause a deep rift in the ranks of the cadres.

An election-themed hoarding in downtown Almaty

An election-themed hoarding in downtown Almaty

Mels Melsovich Melsov, a communist from a long line of communists, was appalled when his comrades used a tractor to crush some old vhs tapes.

“Why should we stoop to using this Western agricultural import – are our hoes and feet not good enough to smash this menace?” Melsov fumed to kazaxia.

Melsov was so incensed that he decided to form his own breakaway party ahead of the election on 20 March.

“My party, the People’s Communist Party of Kazakhstan, represents the true path for the people of our beloved country, not these Western-leaning upstart counter-revolutionaries,” he added, beginning to foam at the mouth.

The stunt was supposed to represent the rejection of decadent western culture and its pernicious influence on people’s minds. Melsov donated a vhs tape from his private collection from the mid-90s – ‘Roxette – Live in Tirana’.