Tokayev’s Reforms: An Evolutionary Model of Change?
By: Svante E. Cornell and Albert Barro
Much ink has been spilled in recent decades on the failures of democratization in the Middle East and Central Asia. Indeed, for over a decade and a half, Freedom House and other democracy watchdogs have been documenting a clear regression of dem-ocratic development. This has happened not only in countries considered in “transition”, but also in established democracies, where authoritarian tendencies have, unexpectedly, returned.
The Middle East and Central Asia have proven particularly resistant to democratic development. The resilience of authoritarian systems of govern-ment in these regions caused considerable frustra-tion, which switched to great excitement when popular revolutions against corrupt and dysfunc-tional government took place between 2003 and 2011. The wave of revolutions began in Georgia, followed by Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, upheavals quickly dubbed “color revolutions.” These were followed several years later by the 2011 “Arab spring”, which similarly generated great hope that democracy had finally come to the Middle East.
Except it did not work out that way. The color revolutions and Arab upheavals must now be termed a failure, as no country that experienced these upheavals has progressed in a sustainable way toward democracy. Some, like Libya, Syria and Yemen have descended into civil war. Others, like Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, experienced recur-rent political crises while continuing to be mired in corruption. For some time, Georgia and Tunisia appeared to go against the grain, and make sus-tained progress – but in recent years, those two have also backtracked. All in all, it seems clear that revolution is not a sustainable model to change entrenched authoritarian habits.
India’s Changing Approach towards Central Asia and the Caucasus after the Afghanistan Debacle
By: Gulshan Sachdeva
India’s ambition to raise its profile and connect with Central Asian neighbourhood was reflected through its ‘Extended Neighbourhood’ and ‘Connect Central Asia’ policies. Prime Minister Modi further elevated these policies through India’s SCO membership and other institutional mechanisms. India’s strategy towards the region has been linked to its Afghanistan, China and Pakistan policies as well as Russian and U.S. designs. With the Afghanistan debacle, the earlier connectivity strategies are no longer valid as a Taliban-Pakistan-China axis will further strengthen the BRI profile, in which India has not participated. In coming years, New Delhi will work with Central Asian partners to safeguard the region from negative repercussions of the Taliban takeover in terms of radicalization, increased terrorist activity and drug trafficking.
Central Asia and the Caucasus have long been part of the Indian imagination because of old civiliza-tional linkages and cultural connections. After the Soviet break-up, new geopolitical realities and geo-economic opportunities further influenced Indian thinking in the 1990s. The emergence of new independent states opened opportunities for energy imports as well as trade and transit. There were also worries of rising religious fundamental-ism. Therefore, developing political, economic and energy partnerships dominated New Delhi’s “ex-tended neighbourhood” policy in the 1990s. Alt-hough India established close political ties with all countries in the region, economic ties remained limited. An unstable Afghanistan and difficult India-Pakistan relations created problems for di-rect connectivity. New Delhi tried to resolve the issue through working with Russia and Iran via the International North-South Trade Corridor (IN-STC) and its tributaries. Due to the U.S.-Iran ten-sions and stagnating India-Russia trade, this op-tion did not prove very effective. In the mean-while, the Chinese profile in the region increased significantly.
Human Rights Reform in Kazakhstan
By: Svante E. Cornell
Kazakhstan’s leaders have long expressed ambitious goals for the country’s development, and worked to make the country a force in international affairs. To a considerable degree they have succeeded. Kazakhstan has played an important role in international organizations, including chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and obtaining a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The country has also played an important role in international peace and security, including through its support for nuclear non-proliferation and its mediation of a number of international disputes. These many steps on the international scene have provided Kazakhstan with considerable goodwill and respect. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s leadership have set ambitious goals for the country’s future. These include a closer partnership with the European Union through an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the goal of obtaining membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, and most potently, for Kazakhstan to be part of the world’s 30 most developed nations by 2050.
Kazakhstan’s international image, and its ambitious development goals, have one thing in common: their biggest challenge arises from certain aspects of Kazakhstan’s domestic situation, particularly those relating to individual rights and freedoms. As became clear during Kazakhstan’s candidacy for the OSCE chairmanship, international concerns regarding individual rights and freedoms in the country constituted a significant challenge that led to reservations from influential member countries and, fairly or not, delayed Kazakhstan’s chairmanship. More broadly, while Kazakhstan’s contributions to international peace and security are widely recognized, criticism concerning human rights issues in the country continue to emerge both from partner governments, international organizations, and non-governmental bodies.
Uzbekistan's "System Reset"
By: Eldor Aripov
On January 24 Uzbekistan’s President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, delivered his third annual report to Parliament. This address marks an important step in Uzbekistan’s reform effort.
As he has done before, President Mirziyoyev emphatically stressed the need to replace old, ineffective structures and work methods with market-based management of the economy and democratic political practices. This time, however, he laid special emphasis on the urgent need to strengthen representative forms of governance at each level. To this end, he strongly urged members the newly elected Parliament to participate actively in the reform process. He pleased for them to act bold and decisively on their own, and not to wait for guidance from the executive branch
of government. Instead, he said that their positions should reflect the views and interests of their constituents.
In his effort to enhance the effectiveness of the national Parliament, President Mirziyoyev appears to be seeking a stable system based on checks and balances. He clearly realizes that the alternative – to construct a system based on a rigid "power vertical" would be counterproductive.
But the alternative is not possible if the country has only "a puppet Parliament." Instead, he envisions an independent Parliament or Oliy Majlis. His goal is to develop an independent Oliy Majlis that has the will and skills required to initiate and adopt laws based on the interests of citizens and the nation as a whole. Hence the call to enhance the status and authority
of parliamentarians. To this end, also, he sharply broke with tradition by proposing a law that will oblige ministers to respond personally to requests from members of parliament.
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.