Tag Archives: Central Asia

Venal Recalls Uchkuduk 1992 Summit

15 Mar

15 March 2018

On the momentous occasion of most of Central Asia’s leaders getting together in Astana for a chinwag, Lord Venal remembers the last time all Central Asia’s leaders gathered together on the Ides of March.

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“I’ll never forget the look on Islam’s face when Saparmurat (aka Turkmenbashi) gave him that Turkmen hat,” he recalled with a tear in his eye for the only two Central Asian leaders to have died in office. “And of course, that was before Turkmenbashi started dyeing his hair.”

“It was back in 1992 in Uchkuduk, Uzbekistan” he recalled over a glass of merlot or two in an Astana wine cellar. “I remember that the meeting was held in a constructive manner, with many issues discussed and a joint statement was signed after the meeting.”

 

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Lord Venal: “I’m no Wolff in Ermine Clothing”

10 Jan

10 January 2018

Lord Venal has expressed his distress at the abrupt cancellation by the presidential administration of his pioneering project of fly-on-the-wall observation of the workings of the administration and publication of a book. Akorda had gained wide recognition for its inspiring move to allow the populace a glimpse into the inner workings of the smooth machine that runs Kazakhstan so efficiently. However, critics claim Akorda’s abrupt abandonment of the project is fall-out from US President Donald Trump’s unhappy experiences over Michael Wolff’s controversial book “Fire and Fury”.

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What might have been…

Lord Venal dismisses any such comparison with his ill-fated US colleague. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” the good Lord told Kazaxia, apparently close to tears. “I’m no Wolff in Ermine Clothing.” He said he had stepped in to pen the volume when his good friend, former jailbird Jonathan Aitken, had proved overburdened, being only half-way through his biography of the veteran inspirational president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang.

“I’ve had the privilege of attending Akorda only twice – and the cocktails and company were quite congenial,” Lord Venal noted. “I’m saddened that my latest project has ended like this.”

Castro Provokes Central Asian Personality Cult Crisis

11 Dec

In its first move, the Association of Traditional Rulers has condemned the
late Cuban leader Fidel Castro for “failing to take seriously his
responsibilities as leader, in death as in life”.

The newly-formed Association unites Central Asia’s presidents – Gurbanguly
Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Emomali
Rahmon of Tajikistan and Almazbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan, together with
candidate member Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan.

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Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev immortalised in an Almaty park

The Association pointed with regret to remarks at Fidel Castro’s funeral by
his brother and current leader Raul Castro that no monuments, institutions
or streets would be named after the late leader. Nor would statues and busts
be erected in his honour.

“The leader of the revolution strongly opposed any manifestation of cult of
personality,” said Raul Castro.

“The Association upholds the clear duty of all responsible leaders to accept
the burdens of office that history has thrust upon them,” a brief statement
from the Association declared. “Fidel Castro – in his dying wish – has
betrayed that trust.”

The Association insisted that a presidential personality “was not the
property of one lone individual, but belongs to the entire nation,
encapsulating, defining and leading that nation’s very essence, for all
eternity”. It termed any rejection of that lofty responsibility as
“selfishness”.

Central Asia’s leaders have graciously taken on themselves the burden of
having streets, towns or universities named after them, the Association
pointed out, and allowing statues of themselves or their ancestors to
inspire their populations in visible locations. They have also acceded to
popular requests to have portraits of themselves in schools, offices and
other locations.

The Association does however credit the late Cuban leader with adhering to
at least one of the standards of traditional rulers. “Fidel Castro did not
absolve himself of the responsibility to ensure that his close relatives –
and his mistresses – also selflessly took on the burdens of senior
government positions.”

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.)

 

SCO “politically unhealthy” film ban

10 Jun

With Tashkent making last minute preparations for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on 23-24 June, Lord Venal came across this enlightening memo from his recent trip to Tajikistan.

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Tashkent: Sprucing up the Palace of Forums for the SCO summit

Having caught his breath after the crammed programme of his referendum monitoring visit to Dushanbe (frankly the hosts’ generosity – particularly with alcohol – left some parts of the programme rather a blur), Lord Venal found he must have somewhere picked up another interesting document.

This appears to be a proposed secret ban on a number of foreign films, which the SCO considers promote a “politically unhealthy attitude to elected leaders”. The document – which asks that the six member governments back the ban and implement it with no publicity – lists the first batch of what are likely to be a growing list of films, together with a brief description. It calls on the films to be banned from showing in cinemas and on television and blocked on the internet.

Lord Venal remembers seeing several of these at the Rutland Odeon when they first came out in the 1970s, and points out, with some modesty, that he was often told that he bore a passing resemblance to Edward Fox in his youth.

“Films to be banned from presentation (as of 12.04.2016):

October (USSR, 1928) – glorifies the violent overthrow of an established government and turns rebels into heroes.

The Great Dictator (USA, 1940) – encourages unhealthy ridicule of elected leaders and slander over their character and leadership.

Day of the Jackal (UK/France, 1973) – unacceptable presentation of the idea that assassinating an elected head of state is feasible or desirable.

All the President’s Men (USA, 1976) – encourages a cynical attitude to politics and applauds the removal from office of an elected leader.

Primary Colors (US, 1998) – normalises the concept that the outcome of an election could be uncertain.

Downfall (Germany, 2004) – its presentation of the psychological breakdown and encouragement to suicide of an elected head of state promotes an unhealthy attitude to political leadership.

Valkyrie (USA/Germany, 2008) – normalises for viewers the unacceptable idea that organising a coup and removing elected political leaders could be honourable.

Leviathan (Russia, 2014) – depicts an elected politician in an unfavourable light, thus breeding unhealthy cynicism among viewers.”

 

Kazakhstan Issues New Guidelines to Journos

3 Jun

Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry has issued a new set of guidelines for reporters asking them to ensure that they can be easily identified as members of the press when covering events in the country.

‘Journalists who cover mass actions must have their IDs, badges and the possible identification of the press badges: armbands, hats, vests with the words “press”, “media” to refer to their status,’ Almas Saudabaev, director of the Interior Ministry’s State Language and Information department told reporters.

The move follows a Keystone Cops-style incident in the capital Astana when more than 50 journalists were detained by the police at a non-existent protest rally on 21 May.

Lord Venal’s sweatshop in Taldykorgan has been working overtime to produce a range of hi-vis vests and masks for discerning journalists that conform to the new recommendations.

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While the vest will clearly help you stand out from the crowd and is fully waterproof, the mask is said to protect from the effects of tear gas and pepper spray. For a limited time only the vest and mask combo are available for a sensational $29.99.

In future, the police will be in their usual uniforms, often supplemented by riot gear, and the plain-clothes officers of the security services can be spotted in dark suits, black leather jackets and sunglasses.

To help the authorities, maybe anyone thinking of protesting about anything should don the following outfit:

 

 

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.

Secret

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]