Tag Archives: Tajikistan

Ashgabat Blues Over Dictatorland

7 Apr

We have received the following missive from an acquaintance of Lord Venal, who recently had cause to be in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat.

Somewhat disappointed by the closing of all nightclubs at an unearthly early hour, he was gratified to receive a personal invitation from President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to drop by at one of his elegant palaces. “After a few drinks, His Excellency pulled out his guitar and treated me and the young ladies present to some of his favourite songs, all written by himself! Knowing I’m from distant Albion, we then settled down to watch the latest BBC production, Dictatorland, which His Excellency enjoyed, but only up to a point. Knowing that a friend from my (rather minor) public school works in the upper echelons of the BBC, he immediately dashed off a letter for me to pass on, which I reproduce below.”

To Director of BBC

London

England

Dear esteemed Sir!

I watched your fine show Dictatorland (thanks to excellent Hola!!) which show success in fellow region leaders in important task keeping order and maintaining popular support and stability in country Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus. You know these leaders follow me in my example how to keep good order on streets, even if in some way they act very primitive, like dictator of tinpot. We here in Turkmenistan famous not needing to shoot people on street like you showed in Kazakhstan, or beating people. We keep order by kindness and goodness of all police officers and lofty wisdom of president (myself).

So why then BBC not ask to come to Turkmenistan? We do not understand this incomprehensible decision. You only need to address yourself to me I arrange everything for you. See nice things, meet nice people. I let you interview me (but note you don’t ask questions, just stand up and write down everything I say in little notebook). You make good programme very popular around world and give glory to my country.

I look forward I hear from you with offer of coming to Turkmenistan.

Gurbanguly

(President)

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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.

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.”

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]

 

Tajikistan Mulling CentAsexit?

24 May

Lord Venal is just back from observing Tajikistan’s referendum, which gave a resounding yes vote to some controversial proposals.

After the referendum, that was conducted in a spirit of tolerance and democracy on 22 May, it is looking increasingly likely that Tajikistan will opt to leave Central Asia in a move dubbed CentAsexit.

Dushanbe has long contended that Central Asia in its current form is an undemocratic, Turkic-speaking club with the other members bullying poor little Tajikistan over water and its right to construct the Rogan dam.

Long-time leader, Shah Rahmon, whose unlimited term rights  were confirmed in the referendum, argues that Tajikistan would be a better fit in a Farsi-centric bloc called Middle Asia, comprising Iran, Afghanistan and the Tajik nation.

The referendum also paved the way for the Shah’s son to ascend the throne in good time. This will be following in the footsteps of other regional potentates such as Azerbaijan’s Ilam Aliyev who succeeded his father Heydar Aliyev, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who ascended to the throne after the demise of his father, Hafez al-Assad. That all went well, didn’t it …

 

 

 

Kazakhstan: Not Like the Other “Stans”?

11 Feb

Following the worldwide media frenzy that resulted from President Nazarbayev’s impromptu remark about changing Kazakhstan’s name to Kazak Yeli/Qazaq Eli, kazaxia has decided to investigate claims that Kazakhstan is essentially different to the other “stans”  and should drop the “stan”  (Editor’s note: What’s wrong with Kazaxia as a new name for the country? ).

Just how different is Kazakhstan to its Central Asian neighbours? Let’s look at some key areas:

Politics – in the political sphere Kazakhstan shares some common ground with Uzbekistan in that it has only had one president since becoming independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. However, it is different to Turkmenistan, which is on its second incumbent, Tajikistan, which is also on number two and Kyrgyzstan, now on number four.

Leader popularity – there is a clear difference here as Kazakhstan is  only one of two “stans” where the president scored more than 95% of the popular vote in the last presidential election. President Nazarbayev was re-elected with a whopping 95.55% of the vote in 2011. Turkmenistan’s President Berdymukhamedov topped that with 97% in 2012 In contrast,  Uzbekistan’s President Karimov got 90.76% in 2007,,  Tajikistan’s President Rahmon received only 86.9% of the vote in 2013 and Kyrgyzstan’s President Atambayev trails in last place with a mere 63.2% in 2011.

Dealing with unsanctioned public protestkazaxia has spotted some differences in dealing with participants in unsanctioned public protests between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In the most recent cases, four bloggers have been arrested in Kazakhstan – at the time of writing three have been imprisoned, a fourth, Dina Baidildayeva, is on trial on February 12 and could face some time inside. So that makes 75%. In Uzbekistan eight protesters were arrested for holding an illegal rally outside the Ukranian embassy – three were given 15-day jail terms. So that makes 37.5%.

President Nazarbayev, speaking at a meeting with cultural figures, where he was asked about changing the country’s name, in Atyrau on February 6, cited  Mongolia (which, of course,  has no “stan” ) as an example of a country that “foreigners show interest” in. Mongolia is unusual in Central Asian countries in that is an island of freedom in a sea of not-free countries, according to this infographic from Freedom House. 

So, we can conclude that Kazakhstan sure is different form its neighbours, but whether matters will be helped by a name change is up for debate.

Are Central Asian Leaders Merely Mortal, After All?

23 May

Alarming evidence has appeared over recent months that some Central Asian leaders may, in fact, be merely mortal, despite claims to the contrary, as the leaders of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan both hit the headlines recently with health scares.

When President Berdymuhkamedov took a tumble from his mount in a horse race in which he won an $11 million prize, he also took a fall from the notion that he was, if not immortal, at least a demi-god.

Rumours of Uzbekistan’s President Karimov suffering a heart attack in March set alarm bells ringing that the long-serving president was, after all, prone to the same fate as we mere mortals. Karimov’s health has long been a subject of debate – a few years ago he was apparently at death’s door with leukemia.

In neighbouring Kazakhstan, President Navarbayev only has to hop on to a plane for rumours to start flying that he is going abroad for major surgery, calling into question his status as a potential demi-god.

In the cases of Karimov and Nazarbayev, both are in their 70s so it’s not really surprising that their respective states of health should be of concern . A doctor, contacted by Kazaxia, confirmed that most likely both, as indeed all the leaders, will one day die if it turns out that  they are not immortal.

As for the others, Kyrgyzstan’s President Atambayev allegedly enjoys getting thoroughly mortal on occasion, which rules him out and Tajikistan’s Rahmon is quite possibly immortal, although he will probably achieve his vicarious immortality through the fruit of his loins as has happened in North Korea, Azerbaijan, and Syria, although, of course, his successor should be wary of how things have panned out for President al-Assad.