Central Asia

The Downgrade of the OSCE Status in Kyrgyzstan (May 2, 2017)

According to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, the OSCE Centre in Kyrgyzstan has been transformed into the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek. This change was initiated by the Kyrgyz Government in September 2016 as a reaction to the speech of Kadyrzhan Batyrov, a businessman and an ethnic Uzbek community leader from Kyrgyzstan, at an annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw in September 2016. This decision has two consequences: first, the OSCE Programme Office will not monitor the political, economic, and human rights situation in the country. Second, all projects of the OSCE must be submitted to the foreign ministry for approval. The downgrade of the Status is not a Kyrgyz innovation. Kyrgyzstan has learned from the experience of its neighbour Kazakhstan, which had also transformed the OSCE Centre in the OSCE Programme Office earlier.

An All-round Talent of Central Asia (Apr. 26, 2017)

In March 2017, the President of Turkmenistan has initiated a competition in order to choose an anthem for the V Asian Games, which will be hosted by Turkmenistan in September 2017. The anthems were presented on April 7, 2017 inter alia by the President Berdymuhamedov, who has also sung his song and which has won the competition. The results of this competition reveal that to govern the country is not the only talent of the President of Turkmenistan: the professional dentist is also known to be an excellent rider, a talented song-writer and an author of more than 30 books of different topics (e.g. medicinal herbs, socio-economic development of Turkmenistan, horses, and other more). One of his books with the title “Paýhas çeşmesi” (“Source of Wisdom”) is now an obligatory book within the school program in Turkmenistan. It should be noted that the books of the current president replaced the books of the ex-president Niyazov and are translated in other languages, e.g Kazakh, Russian, German, English.

Constitutional reforms in Kazakhstan – a pathway to democratization? (Febr. 01, 2017)

On January 25, 2017, Kazakh President Nazarbayev announced the proposed constitutional changes at the TV-address to the nation. It will be the forth constitutional reforms in Kazakhstan since the current constitution was approved by a national referendum in August 1995 and replaced the constitution of 1993. The constitutional reforms of 1998 and 2007 focused on the strengthening and increase of presidential competences, and consequently, Nazarbayev grew more authoritarian over this time in office; the upcoming amendments are going to change the political system toward a “more liberal” one.

The President promised to delegate some of his power to the Parliament and the Government. The Government, ministries and regional executive offices (akimats) will be responsible for the regulation of social and economic processes. The role of Parliament should be strengthened in the formation of Government. According to Nazarbayev, about 40 functions can be transferred either to the Government or the Parliament. The President will act as a supreme arbiter. In addition, he will also focus on foreign policy, national security and defence. Moreover, the possibility of adopting the presidential decrees (they have the force of law) should have lost their relevance.

The proposed constitutional reforms will help to ensure stability of the political system, to provide more effective mechanisms of response to modern challenges and, finally, to move in the direction of democratic development. At this point it should be noted that Nazarbayev distanced himself from the universal concept of democracy in several speeches. He claimed that the latter concept is not appropriate for Kazakhstan, therefore he praised Donald Trump for saying that there is no need to spread American values across the whole globe to promote democracy. In this vein, it remains unclear, what he meant by the concept of democracy and therefore, whether the proposed constitutional reforms will lead to democratization.

Presidential Elections in Uzbekistan (Nov. 27, 2016)

After the death of Islam Karimov, who was the first and only President of the independent Republic of Uzbekistan, the question of the presidential successor is one of the mainly discussed topics.

Citizens of Uzbekistan as well as external observers have long been speculating how the succession can be carried out. Some years ago it seemed to be likely that the Azerbaijan model of succession could be adopted and that the oldest daughter of Karimov could be installed as a successor. But currently it becomes evident that this model has no chance.

There are 4 registered candidates for the presidency: Nariman Umarov (Adolat Social Democratic Party of Uzbekistan), Hatamjon Ketmonov (The People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan), Sarvar Otamuratov (Milly Tiklanish Democratic Party of Uzbekistan), and the interim head of state as well as the most likely successor Shavkat Merziyoyev (The Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan).

Although the parties‘ names content a claim to be “democratic” it is doubtful whether the elections (on Sunday 4 December 2016) in such hard-line autocracy will be fair and free and, hence, whether the basic criteria for a democratic election can be fulfilled. It is also doubtful whether the death of Islam Karimov and the imminent elections will be the end of the system and not only of an era.