By closing its border and forcing a remote Tajik valley into isolation for the winter ahead, Uzbekistan is showing it will spare no effort in its protracted battle of wills with Dushanbe.
The Zarafshan Valley is accessible from the rest of Tajikistan only in the warmer months, when snow does not close the road. In winter, residents depend on Uzbekistan for access to the outside world. Previously, according to a bilateral agreement, residents of the valley were allowed to enter Uzbekistan for five days without a visa, Ferghana.ru reports. The border is now shut.
Uzbek authorities told Dushanbe that they have shut the only post connecting Zarafshan with Uzbekistan's Samarkand Province and have not provided a reason, Tajik MFA officials say. The area is home to some 121,000 people, according to official statistics from 2007. Tashkent has refused EurasiaNet.org's request for comment.
This latest squeeze is unsurprising, given the rapidly deteriorating relations between the two countries, mostly over Tajikistan’s plans to construct a giant hydropower dam at Rogun. Uzbekistan is worried the upstream plant will cut water supplies to its intensive agricultural sector.
Three weeks after voters in Kyrgyzstan went to the polls to pick their new parliament, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) has finally announced what we’ve all been expecting since election night: Five parties passed the five percent threshold to divide up the new parliament’s 120 seats. They are
“In elections there are always winners and losers,” he said. “It’s quite another matter how participants in the elections behave after the process. This concerns not everybody, but those who cannot resign themselves to losing.”
Let the countdown begin. The parliament must sit within two weeks. The five parties have two more weeks to name a premier.
Recent violence on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border may vindicate those predicting that Islamic militants could spill over the Ferghana Valley’s porous borders. It could also deepen tension between the valley’s three squabbling governments.
In Tajikistan’s Charku village, authorities have been battling militants they call members of the extremist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al-Qaeda affiliate, killing three and arresting one on October 29, Avesta.tj reports.
After two months of militant activity in Tajikistan, the latest fighting is unusual because it has happened in the de facto no man’s land between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. There is no clear border between what the Kyrgyz call Kok-Tash and the Tajiks Charku; the frontier zigzags between homes in the ethnically mixed settlement with Tajiks and Kyrgyz laying claims to each other’s territory. (Contrary to some media reports, Charku is not a Tajik enclave, but a peninsula of contiguous Tajik land pointing into Kyrgyzstan.)
Washington is pouring money into a project in Kyrgyzstan that, based on available evidence, has very questionable chances of success.
USAID has awarded a no-bid contract to Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a for-profit company, "to ensure from the outset that the new parliament and its members understand their representative roles and functions," The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus reports.
Democratization may be a laudable goal, but politicians in Kyrgyzstan understand their roles and functions in a very different way than Washington would care to acknowledge. Some, for example, readily admit spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy seats on their party lists.
In this case, the institutional inertia of Washington’s democratization programs is costing the American taxpayer $3.25 million. True, it’s not a lot in the great scheme of American spending (the US has pledged roughly $100 million in aid to Kyrgyzstan this year), but considering what the Post has reported about DAI’s track record, how effective will this spending be?
A July 2010 review of recent USAID inspector general reports covering Pakistan and Afghanistan show that such contracts have trouble producing results.
A 2008 contract to DAI to increase the capacity of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas found that after almost two years, and spending of about $15.5 million, "little progress had been made" because most of the first year was spent developing plans and building relationships.
Ata-Jurt supporters, mostly angry young men, rallied in front of parliament October 25 with huge posters of mutilated corpses, which they insisted were ethnic Kyrgyz killed during June’s violence in Osh. According to recent polling data, most southerners blame the interim government for the deadly clashes.
Members of the winning, opposition Ata-Jurt party say forces within the interim government, who feel they lost the election, are deliberately stalling, provoking instability so as to cancel the results and hold a new poll, party insiders tell EurasiaNet.org.
Provisional President Roza Otunbayeva has called for patience while problems with a small number of ballots are resolved. Yet her circle, which was reportedly shocked by Ata-Jurt’s win, may not be keen on a final result being released until the interim government can ensure a leg up in the future governing coalition, the Ata-Jurt skeptics say.
Suspicious events at the house of Ata-Jurt leader Kamchybek Tashiev are further muddying the situation. Tashiev says the head of the State Security Service (SNB) organized an attack on his home on October 23. Hundreds of his supporters have rallied over the past two days, demanding SNB Chief Keneshbek Dushebayev’s dismissal.
The head of the controversial party that won the most votes in Kyrgyzstan’s recent parliamentary elections has accused the country’s intelligence chief of organizing an attempt to assassinate him on October 23.
Ata-Jurt party leaders said Kamchybek Tashiev’s security guards had fought off an attack by four or five armed men against his suburban Bishkek home earlier that evening. No one was reported killed.
At a hastily arranged press conference, Tashiev said the head of the State Security Service (SNB), Keneshbek Dushebayev, was behind the attack and called for his dismissal, in a move likely to further inflame tensions between the party and the security services.
“They broke in like bandits. They had weapons, Makarov pistols, and personal identification numbers of secret service employees,” Tashiev said, according to 24.kg. “This is why I can confidently state that these were employees of the State Security Service.”
Ata-Jurt, typically considered a nationalist party, has strong support in the South but little in Bishkek.
Japarov noted that Tashiev’s security detail was unarmed. Ultimately, according to Japarov, the attackers fled. However, the security detail managed to confiscate four Makarov pistols. Moreover, one of the attackers dropped an SNB employee ID.
As politicians in Kyrgyzstan vie to form the next government in Bishkek, it seems the path to power goes through Moscow. Russian leaders, however, appear to be nervous kingmakers. The chief concern in the Kremlin is that Kyrgyzstan’s new constitution, which transforms the Central Asian state into a parliamentary democracy, will produce governmental gridlock.
He looks like a poor loser, but he may have a point.
The leader of an opposition party that authorities say lost in the October 10 parliamentary elections has threatened he cannot control his followers who may resort to violence.
"I am warning -- the mood of the people is serious, their patience has run out," Butun Kyrgyzstan leader Adakhan Madumarov told a news conference on October 19 before hundreds of supporters rallied outside the parliament building in Bishkek.
Though he’s been making similarly dramatic statements for over a week, he is right that there is something fishy in the election rules that shut his party out.
Kyrgyzstan’s confusing vote tally is based on a proportional list system. To enter parliament, a party must receive at least 5 percent of the total possible votes.
Members of the nationalist-leaning, southern-based Butun Kyrgyzstan began rallying on October 12 after the Central Election Commission announced that the total number of eligible voters had turned out to be about 3 million instead of the originally estimated 2.8 million. This bumped up the threshold for entering parliament by about 10,000 votes, which, for Butun Kyrgyzstan, made the difference between in or out.
The CEC says Butun Kyrgyzstan received 4.84 percent of the 3 million. Butun Kyrgyzstan supporters say they received over 5 percent of the 2.8 million.
Since Ata-Jurt leader Kamchybek Tashievreportedly said ahead of the October 10 vote that his colleagues were “the only ones who can bring Bakiyev back,” relatives of those killed in April (and assorted other hangers-on, now including parties that failed to win seats) have been rallying against Ata-Jurt taking its rightful place in parliament.
An organizer from the group Meken Sheyitteri (“Homeland’s Martyrs”) told 24.kg that protesters are demanding the election results be cancelled. Yet the vote was praised by the OSCE and called the freest election in Kyrgyzstan’s history.
On October 19, a surly crowd held yet another rally as riot police watched from a nearby park. Though organizers have told local press they are beginning a hunger strike, some were passing out food to participants (and seemed especially unhappy to be photographed in the act) – a tried and tested way to bolster support in Kyrgyzstan and keep the protest alive.