By Oleg Salimov (03/18/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
Tajikistan held parliamentary elections on March 1. Eight political parties participated, including the National Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Communist Party of Tajikistan, Agrarian Party, Socialist Party, Social-Democratic Party, Economic Reforms Party, and Democratic Party. The predictable outcome of the elections was the sweeping victory of the National Democratic Party (NDPT) with 65.2 percent of votes. Alongside NDPT, the newly elected parliament will include the Agrarian Party, the Economic Reforms Party and the Socialist Party.
Two opposition parties, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) and the Communist Party, failed to reach the five percent threshold for entering parliament. It is the first time in Tajikistan’s political history that the Communist Party was voted out of parliament. The Islamic Renaissance Party made its previously most unsuccessful elections in 2005, when it received only two seats in parliament and refused to acknowledge the election results.
Soon after Tajikistan’s Central Election Committee (CEC) announced the voting tally, IRPT leader Mukhiddin Kabiri and Communist Party leader Shodi Shabdolov disavowed the official election results. According to the CEC, IRPT gained only 1.5 percent and the Communist Party 2.3 percent of the votes. In the most recent elections in 2010, IRPT received 7.74 percent and the Communists 7.22 percent, respectively. In 2005, the Communists gained as much as 20.63 percent and the IRPT 7.48 percent. While refusing to recognize the results of elections, which they consider falsified, both opposition leaders emphasized that they would refrain from public protests for the sake of peace and stability in the republic.
The failure to conduct fair, open, and democratic parliamentary elections in Tajikistan was also reported by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). OSCE observers recorded numerous violations of the voting process, including multiple voting, voting ballots provided without confirmed identification, and an unreliable and untrustworthy vote counting process. Overall, observers noted the orchestrated character of the elections with the Tajik government exercising oversight and control of the entire process.
Besides violations on Election Day, the OSCE observers also described other abuses against the opposition in the months preceding the elections. In particular, opposition parties were deprived of fair media coverage and unable to present and explain their political platform to the public and, more importantly, frequent government persecution of opposition representatives by the government. In Tajikistan’s previous parliamentary elections as well as presidential elections, the OSCE issued similar statements of unfair treatment of the opposition and undemocratic nature of the election process.
Reports of election fraud were issued also by other local and international organizations. In an official letter prior to March 1, Reporters without Borders asked the Tajik government to respect the freedom of speech and refrain from pressuring journalists reporting on the elections. Representatives of IRPT in Tajikistan’s southern regions, where the party commonly draws its widest support, reported violations similar to those registered by OSCE observers. The CEC rejected the allegations from the OSCE and opposition parties, noting a high turnout attendance and a lack of complains from the public.
At the same time, the observer mission from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) recognized the elections as satisfying democratic norms and standards. Although acknowledging some violations, the CIS observers considered them minor and not decisive to the election process and results. Overall, the CIS observers praised the successful organization and conduct of the election process. The contrast between assessments issued by the OSCE and CIS observers was similar during Tajikistan’s previous parliamentary elections.
Election Day was also marked by a country-wide disruption of cellular service. All but one of Tajikistan’s major cellular companies blocked access to SMS services. According to company representatives, the disruption was the result of temporary technical difficulties. Limitations to cellular and internet services are common in Tajikistan ahead of major political events. The most recent was reported on October 10, 2014, prior to an anti-government protest action planned by “Group 24.”
The newly elected Tajik parliament can be considered fully pro-government. Agrarian Party, the second largest in parliament, openly positions itself as a partner and supporter of the ruling NDPT. The entry of other political parties, like Economic Reforms Party and Socialist Party, to parliament effectively ousted the actual opposition formed by the Communists and IRPT, creating an illusory counterbalance to Rakhmon’s NDPT.
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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 Oleg Salimov (02/18/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon addressed the parliament in his annual speech on January 23, 2015. Rakhmon reviewed Tajikistan’s accomplishments in the socioeconomic sphere in 2014 and outlined his proposals for the country’s development in 2015. Rakhmon presented a highly detailed review of the work done by the Tajik government in 2014, highlighting numerous improvements supported by meticulous statistical data. In the speech, summaries of specific accomplishments were followed by appeals for further improvement.
In his annual address, Rakhmon focused mostly on economics, social problems, energy independence, transportation infrastructure, water resources, education and youth problems, and terrorism. Rakhmon specifically addressed the importance of developing a strong ideological basis in order to unify the people of Tajikistan and enhance their patriotism. Rakhmon also announced 2015 as the “Year of the Family,” translating into a separate set of tasks for the government and legislature in 2015. The president only cursorily mentioned Tajikistan’s parliamentary elections, even though these are scheduled to take place on March 1, 2015.
A few points in Rakhmon’s speech require closer attention. When speaking about economics, Rakhmon stressed the role of heavy industry, natural resources extraction, and Tajikistan’s hydroelectric power potential as it seeks to find its niche in the global market. In Rakhmon’s vision, the development of the agricultural sector is essential mostly for the country’s internal consumption and substitution of imported produce. According to Rakhmon’s speech, Tajikistan’s mid-term goal to transform from a largely agricultural society into a resource-supplying country with a perspective, in the long-run, to become a self-sufficient industrialized economy.
This enormous task can encounter such problems as insufficient human capital, technological deficiency, and inability of the state to attract necessary financial investments. Rakhmon touched on these problems as part of Tajikistan’s broader socioeconomic challenges, yet he made no direct reference to his proposal for economic transformation. The country’s transportation gridlock creates another obstacle for Tajikistan on its way to industrialization. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railroad project, which started in March 2013 and would have provided Tajikistan with access to the Caspian and South-Asian markets, stalled as the participating countries disagree on the route of the railroad.
Tajikistan also continually suffers from an energy crisis. Although the country possesses a significant hydroelectric power capability, it suffers from a constant deficit of electricity vital for industrialization. While Rakhmon reports a significant increase in electricity production, the power limit for residential consumption remains at 6 hours daily in the winter time. Additionally, the hydroelectric power company Barki Tojik, which Rakhmon sees as an important player in advancing Tajikistan’s energy independence and hydroelectric power export, struggles with considerable financial difficulties. The company’s debt to suppliers and Tajikistan’s Taxation Department totals US$ 300 million as of August 2014. Tajikistan’s state budget is also cash strained as the export of aluminum, the main income-generating item, was cut from 216,000 tons in 2013 to 121,200 tons in 2014, according to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Sharif Rakhimzoda.
Another significant part of Rakhmon’s speech was an appeal for constructing an ideological platform for Tajikistan, which must encourage patriotism, pride of the national and cultural heritage, and loyalty to the country’s interests. This task was in large part delegated to the Tajik Academy of Sciences. The ideology has to counterbalance propaganda hostile to Tajikistan. Rakhmon also underlined that, among other tasks, the Academy has to intensify its efforts to study the Tajik Civil War of 1992-97 and presenting more accurate and objective information on the issue as compared to other sources. It should be noted that last year a Tajik scholar from Canada was arrested in Tajikistan when trying to conduct research on the Tajik Civil War, unauthorized by the Tajik government. The apparent motive behind these proposals is to increase the legitimacy of the current regime. Rakhmon’s image as a peacemaker has helped him retain power for almost two decades and he intends to continue to do so in the future.
In general, Rakhmon’s annual address to parliament presented the same set of issues that the country has been trying to resolve since independence. As in last year’s speech, the current proposals for export increases, industrialization, energy independence, and resolution of the transportation impasse lacked specific plans for action and follow-up reviews. Besides, several factors and actors supposedly assisting the economic development process have collapsed or struggle to function, as seen in the example of the TAT railroad and Barki Tojik. Therefore, Rakhmon’s proposals constitute the acknowledgment of problems rather solutions to them.
By Oleg Salimov (01/22/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)
Tajikistan’s ruling National Democratic Party of (NDPT) held its 12th convention on December 13, 2014. The convention of the largest parliamentary party, holding 45 parliamentary seats out of 63, was led by its chairman, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon. The upcoming national and local parliamentary elections in February 2015 were the central theme of the convention. The delegates discussed the parliamentary work done by the party in the last five years and reviewed the party’s program and agenda for the upcoming parliamentary elections. The current convention also marked the twentieth anniversary of NDPT.
Alongside the NDPT convention in Dushanbe, the second week of December was marred by the increased harassment of opposition political parties and their members. Tajik police held in custody numerous members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRP), who were headed to IRP’s own convention in Dushanbe, in Djirgatal and Asht districts for several hours without explanation. Also, the deputy chairman of the Social-Democratic Party of Tajikistan Shokirjon Khakimov reported an attempted arrest and harassment by police officers before his scheduled roundtable meeting at the Central Election Committee in Dushanbe on December 11. Khakimov is convinced that these incidents were preplanned, likely to repeat, and aimed to intimidate parliamentary candidates.
Pressure on NDPT’s parliamentary opponents is applied also through more subtle, intellectual means. The Center on Modern Processes and Forecasting, which was founded by the Tajik Academy of Science in June 2014, has drawn attention as a result of its controversial statements on the IRP. According to its director, Khafiz Boboerov, the Center was organized with the purpose of establishing a scientific basis for the country’s development process. According to Boboerov, one of the Center’s main research priorities is to establish control over theological, and in particular Islamic, influence in state politics. The Center presents its findings and conclusions on political Islam and the IRP for the consideration of the Tajik government. The statement gives rise to suspicion that the state funded academic institution was created with the primary purpose providing intellectual support for the ruling party’s attempts to weaken its main political opponent.
At the same time, NDPT dominates the political arena in Tajikistan. The party counts nearly 250,000 members and controls 71 percent of Tajikistan’s parliament. It has continuously held a majority in the parliament since the 2000 parliamentary elections. The party includes the youth branch “Builders of Motherland” created in July 2011 and publishes its own newspaper “People’s tribune.” NDPT maintains five executive committees in all regions of the country, which unify 3,458 local representations. NDPT’s December convention was preceded by a convention held one month earlier on November 13 in Sughd region, led by deputy chairman Asror Latifzoda. The Sughd convention reviewed last year’s performance of the party’s regional committees. It also served to reinforce the number of party members ahead of the more important Dushanbe convention in December.
Speaking at the Dushanbe convention, Rakhmon emphasized the importance of attracting younger generations of Tajiks to NDPT’s ranks. The idea behind Rakhmon’s statement is to facilitate a generational succession which can contribute to NDPT’s political longevity and by extension that of the current regime. NDPT also seeks to remain relevant among Tajik labor migrants, which was indicated in the presentation given by Murivat Malikshoev, the NDPT’s representative in Russia’s Irkutsk region. Tajik labor migrants constitute a significant electoral mass outside of Tajikistan and the NDPT branch in Russia is a unique political structure targeting this particular group. NDPT is set to convince Tajik migrants that their ability to live and work in Russia is a direct result of the policies pursued by Rakhmon’s regime and the ruling party.
One of Rakhmon’s most quoted statements at the convention was his proclamation that elections should be open, democratic, and transparent. Rakhmon stressed the NDPT’s commitment to political and economic freedoms, rule of law, freedom of speech, a multiparty system, civil society, and democratization. However, Tajikistan has over the last year seen a tightening of civil liberties through harsh regulations on anti-governmental demonstrations, suppression of political initiatives through the imprisonment of Zaid Saidov, the founder the “New Tajikistan” party, infringements on the freedom of speech through detainment and persecution of various public figures, individuals, and journalists, and repression against opposition parties and their members. While the NDPT is likely to attain a sweeping victory in the approaching parliamentary elections, this outcome will have ambiguous implications for Tajikistan’s democratization.
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 the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.