KAZAKHSTAN AND THE EEU, by Dmitry Shlapentokh
U.S. NEW SILK ROAD INITIATIVE NEEDS URGENT RENEWAL, by Richard Weitz
IS “TURKISH STREAM” A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE?, by Juraj Beskid, Tomáš Baranec
CASA-1,000 – HIGH VOLTAGE IN CENTRAL ASIA, by Franz J. Marty
KYRGYZSTAN’S RESIGNED PROSECUTOR-GENERAL GIVES WORRYING PRESS CONFERENCE, by Arslan Sabyrbekov
MOSCOW PLEDGES TO COUNTERACT GEORGIA’S INTEGRATION WITH NATO, by Eka Janashia
ARMENIA TOUGHENS ITS STANCE AGAINST TURKEY, by Erik Davtyan
FOREIGN MINISTERS OF TURKEY, AZERBAIJAN AND TURKMENISTAN DISCUSS ENERGY AND TRANSPORTATION IN ASHGABAT, by Tavus Rejepova
By Franz J. Marty (03/04/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
CASA-1,000 envisages hydro-electricity exports from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Due to the security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a study designated CASA-1,000 a high risk project. Recently concluded agreements between the participating countries, the currently ongoing procurement and the completed construction of another transmission line nonetheless promise a realization.
By Arslan Sabyrbekov (03/04/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
On February 11, Kyrgyzstan's former prosecutor-general Aida Salyanova gave her first press conference since her recent resignation, describing it as "forced" rather than "voluntary," as was previously claimed by representatives of the president's closest circle. In her words, the main reason for her resignation was the obvious lack of support from the side of the president, who "could not or did not wish to guarantee security and sustainability for her office's work in combating corruption."
Rumors about Salyanova leaving her office started to circulate some time before she submitted her official letter of resignation on January 19. At his end of the year press conference last December, President Almazbek Atambayev denied information about the prosecutor-general's possible resignation stating that, "her work is very complex and she is tired. She has a family and children and needed some time to rest." Back then, the president assured the public that Aida Salyanova will return to work after her short vacation and wished the country to have such a "President as Salyanova." However, the prosecutor-general's long vacation generated further rumors, with local political observers suggesting that the head of the Presidential Administration Daniyar Narymbaev may replace her, and that she might be appointed as Kyrgyzstan's next envoy to Washington, DC.
Salyanova was appointed Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor-general in April 2011, after serving as the President's representative in Parliament and briefly as Minister of Justice. Under her leadership, the prosecutor-general's office has conducted an unprecedented fight against corruption with a number of high profile cases filed against the country's top high ranking officials, including the former speaker of Parliament, former Mayor of Bishkek, former Minister for Social Development, and a number of prominent parliamentarians. She is perceived by part of the public as Kyrgyzstan's "Iron Lady" and as a symbol of the fight against corruption, while others believe that she became a victim of the system and simply turned into an instrument of selective justice.
The former prosecutor-general's open criticism against the country's president caused an immediate reaction from his office. "Aida Salyanova was given full political support and freedom of action for the entire period of her tenure as Kyrgyzstan's prosecutor-general," stated presidential adviser Farid Niyazov. The high-ranking White House official also added that "for a long time, information about the intervention of people from Salyanova's inner circle into the affairs of her office existed only in the form of anonymous letters and rumors, and the attitude of the president was therefore appropriate. However, when these rumors began to appear as facts, she was proposed to draw conclusions, lost the president's trust and is now making false statements for her own political benefit." Shortly before Salyanova's resignation, local media sources have spread information that her spouse and an aide at the Justice Ministry, Bakyt Abdykaparov, received US$ 50,000 for his alleged assistance in terminating the criminal case against officials of the municipal enterprise Tazalyk. Salyanova described these assertions as a clear information attack against her.
The most important announcement during the former prosecutor-general's press conference was her intention and readiness to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections in October 2015. Contrary to local political analysts' views that she will join one of the large political parties, Salyanova has been unanimously affirmed as Chairwoman of the relatively new political party called Kuchtuu Kyrgyzstan (Strong Kyrgyzstan). According to Bishkek-based political observer Mars Sariev, her political party has very good chances of entering the next Parliament and emphasize combating corruption in its election program. Local analysts also do not exclude the possibility that prior to elections, Salyanova's party might merge with larger political parties, socialist Ata Meken party being at the top of the list.
In the meantime, Kyrgyzstan's Parliament has supported the nomination of a new prosecutor-general, Indira Joldubaeva, who has previously served as head of the justice sector reform department in the presidential apparatus. The newly appointed Joldubaeva, 35, is the youngest serving prosecutor-general in Kyrgyzstan's history and has prior to her nomination attained widespread criticism for not having worked a single day in the prosecution system.
The author writes in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the organization for which he works.
By Arslan Sabyrbekov (02/18/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
In October 2015, the second parliamentary elections under the 2010 Constitution are scheduled to take place in Kyrgyzstan. The country is in the midst of debating reform of its electoral system with political forces trying to define the “rules of the game” in their own interests. According to the recommendations of the Venice Commission, amendments to the electoral system must be introduced at least one year prior to the elections and Kyrgyzstan is already behind schedule.
The working group on reforming the existing electoral system, chaired by the head of the presidential administration Daniyar Narymbaev, recently issued a statement that all the amendments will be finalized and submitted to the parliament in February at the latest. The initiative on dividing the country into 9 constituencies was already adopted in the first reading. Other initiatives concern the formation of the voters’ list, the bill on conducting elections on the basis of biometric data, automation of the entire electoral process – from issuing ballots to counting the end election results as well as bills related to increasing the size of the parties’ required electoral fund and raising the electoral threshold to 10 percent from the current 5. These last two initiatives have led to widespread discussions in the country’s expert and political circles. According to the leader of the country’s ruling Social Democratic Party and one of the initiators of these norms, Chynybai Tursunbekov, “these initiatives will foster the country’s stability by getting rid of the smaller political forces and having 3 or 4 political parties in the parliament with a stable electorate and political capital.”
However, the country’s prominent civil society activists take a different position and perceive these initiatives as an effort to further consolidate power and another drawback in the country’s democratic development. “We should keep the threshold at 5 percent. Doubling the threshold will definitely remove the chance for smaller political parties to compete and the country risks ending up with one or two political parties in the parliament, like during the times of the first two ousted presidents,” noted Dinara Oshurakhunova, leader of the Bishkek-based “Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society.” Indeed, even the last parliamentary elections of 2010 with a threshold of 5 percent showed that this number is still high for Kyrgyzstan. Then, none of the political parties currently represented in the country’s legislature managed to pass the proposed 10 percent threshold, making the warning that the state machine could be used for the benefit of certain political forces in the upcoming elections quite legitimate. In 2010, only 5 parties out of 29 competing were able to enter parliament and represented less than 50 percent of the electorate.
According to local experts, this initiative has already led to the formation of unions between several major political parties: Ata Jurt and Respublika as well as Butun Kyrgyzstan and Bir Bol. According to political analyst Marat Kazakpaev, “these unions are not guided by ideological commonalities but rather by short-term opportunistic interests. This in turn damages Kyrgyzstan’s path towards developing a stronger parliamentarian system.” Kazakpaev has also noted that the initiative to increase the required election fund will make it impossible for smaller political parties to compete, forcing them to unite with others who have sufficient financial resources. Currently, only a few parties can manage to raise the required sum of 10 million KGS or around US$ 165,000.
In the meantime, the government is actively collecting biometric data on citizens, arguing that this will help holding the upcoming parliamentary elections in a fair and transparent manner. However, critics of the initiative see political interest behind it, claiming that citizens who have failed to submit their biometric data will be deprived of their right to vote, just like in the last presidential elections where hundreds of citizens were not included in the voters’ list and could not therefore cast their ballots.
In addition, electoral reform and especially its automation requires significant financial resources. Despite recent drawbacks in Kyrgyzstan’s democratic development, the European Union has expressed its readiness to allocate 10 million Euros for these purposes, along with Switzerland providing another US$ 2 million.
The author writes in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the organization for which he works.
By Zamira Sydykova (01/22/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
It is not even ten years since Kyrgyzstan went through two revolutions and an ethnic conflict of the summer of 2010, but we are now approaching new parliamentary elections which, as we are promised, will employ new IT technologies. However, even today, more than six months before the elections (they are planned for October-November 2015) these technologies are a subject of concern among the general population and of an even bigger unease among politicians.
This is the biometrics technology which the government of Kyrgyzstan is making hasty attempts to implement and is so readily reporting every day how many citizens and from which regions submitted their fingerprints.
For Kyrgyz people who already staged two revolutions, one of which (in 2005) was instigated specifically by the falsified elections, each suspicion sparks their revolutionary spirit. Cheated by previous governments, they are very wary of the biometrics and are very apprehensive because they believe that the new elections will spark new instability.
The biometrics technology was only tested during elections by a handful of countries – Mongolia, Bolivia and Venezuela. For instance, in Mongolia, a country with a population of 5 million people, the citizens were fingerprinted and the government retained the fingerprints. Polling stations were equipped with special machines that read the fingerprints of each voter, so on the day of the elections voters would just open up their computers and push on the candidate, party or law that they were voting for and that was it. Voters could vote from anywhere, even if they were in a different city or abroad. The votes were counted immediately.
However, neither Europe, nor the U.S. adopted this approach for reasons of security in general and specifically because this would constitute a violation of the citizens’ right to the secrecy of vote. Their discussions did not even include fingerprinting which in itself is a highly sensitive procedure involving storing highly sensitive information. For instance, in order to collect biometrical data of the 5 million people in Mongolia, 5,000 IT specialists were employed. It is unlikely that they were all sworn to secrecy.
Initially the government of Kyrgyzstan intended to implement an automated system, National Registry of Citizens, which would contain data for different categories of the population. It was later decided to combine this with the voter registration system so that they could obtain a list of voters and their identifying information – all in one registry. But when the campaign to collect biometric data commenced, a lot of issues surfaced. It is entirely possible that this issue would not have gained so much publicity were it not for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Aside from purely technical issues which were in great detail presented in Kyrgyzstan by the civic organization Citizens’ Initiative for Internet Policy, and in particular, how biometric data will be stored in view of the peaked cyber-attacks around the world (e.g. during the elections in Estonia the database was kept in an embassy of a foreign state), there are many other problems which need to be solved.
Biometric voter registration is not prescribed by any law and neither is it part of the constitution which in Part 4 of Article 2 states, “Elections are free. Elections of the representatives to Zhogorku Kenesh, of the President and representatives of the local elective government bodies are held on the basis of universal, equal and direct right to vote by secret ballot”.
The Government of Kyrgyzstan has announced that those who did not submit their fingerprints would not be allowed to vote. Moreover, even if an individual did provide his or her biometric data but for some reason will be in any other place or outside of the country, the person will definitely not be able to vote. However, internal and external migration in Kyrgyzstan are very high. It is inevitable that civic activists will be filing complaints with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic about violation of their voting rights. This, in turn, will add to the chaos surrounding the upcoming political process in the country.
Part of the population is already of the opinion that the electronic voting will be easy to falsify, whereas the political elite who is poised to take part in the elections yet needs to figure out what rules will apply. At this time the parliament of Kyrgyzstan has on its docket four draft laws on elections. A serious concern is the impending increase of the 10 percent threshold and a non-refundable deposit (which will be just short of a million dollars). This will significantly impede the competitive abilities of political parties. Moreover, these restrictions are proposed by the governing pro-presidential coalition in the parliament. Rumors hold that the upcoming elections are being prepared by the presidential administration and the government and not by the Central Election Committee who now is not in charge of anything, not even of the voter registration.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with Johns Hopkins University's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst brings cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.