Monday, August 29, 2016

Qishloq Ovozi

Karimov's Reelection And The Challenges Ahead For Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Islam Karimov
Uzbek President Islam Karimov

This was the headline from a report the website carried at the end of December about the March 29 Uzbek presidential election.

“Incumbent President Islam Karimov’s Reelection Scheduled For March 2015"

It is a reliable prediction since, barring an act of God, Karimov is certain to be elected for the fourth time, or put another way, for his second unconstitutional term in office (see Article 90 of Uzbekistan’s constitution).

Karimov has been the poster boy for “Central Asia’s strongmen” for more than two decades and during that time earned a reputation as a rights abuser, an enemy of the press, and a neighborhood bully.

But he recently turned 77. He has been the subject of health rumors for some time now -- and lately those rumors have gathered more steam. Well-publicized family problems, which include his eldest daughter currently being under house arrest, have caused Karimov some embarrassment and raised questions about his control over his inner circle.

His country seems headed for some tough economic times, as migrant laborers in Russia return to unemployment in Uzbekistan and a large part of the remittances they’ve been sending home ($6.6 billion in 2013) evaporate. There are also fresh security concerns now that Afghan troops are fully responsible for security in their country, including the area bordering Uzbekistan.

And there is the huge matter of leadership succession in Central Asia’s most populous country.

RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, organized a roundtable on the challenges during Karimov’s upcoming five-year term.

Azatlyk Director Muhammad Tahir moderated the discussion with Sanjar Umarov, leader-in-exile of Uzbekistan’s opposition Sunshine Coalition; Joanna Lillis from EurasiaNet and author of many articles about Uzbekistan; Alisher Sidikov, the director of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik; and myself.

Figures from international financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank show Uzbekistan weathered the recent global economic crisis fairly well with GDP growth of more than 8 percent or more annually for several straight years. But Russia’s sharp economic decline is likely to hit Uzbekistan’s economy hard.

Sidikov said the economy would be a major challenge for Karimov during his next term as work becomes harder to find in Russia, remittances dry up, and hundreds of thousands of Uzbek citizens return home.Finding jobs for them will be difficult and if they remain unemployed there could be social unrest.

Uzbekistan can still count on Chinese investment but Russia is currently not in a position to sink money into Uzbekistan, a fact underscored by Moscow’s recent decision to greatly reduce imports of Central Asian gas. Until very recently, most of Uzbekistan’s exported gas went to Russia. China is building four gas pipelines to Central Asia but it is still several years until all those pipelines are finished.

Lillis pointed out “Western investors shun the country, not really so much because of political uncertainty although that is a factor, but mainly because many Western investors have had terrible experiences in Uzbekistan [some] had their businesses appropriated.”

Karimov is unlikely to have the luxury of devoting his full attention to looming economic problems.

The panelists agreed the biggest question hanging over Karimov’s next term in office is whether he’ll live through all five years and that opened the door for a discussion on succession.

Sidikov said that while deciding the succession question should be one Karimov’s priorities during the next term, the Uzbek president might spend more time ensuring an exit strategy for some of his family members after his death. Sidikov said the process has already started. “They [the Karimov family] don’t invest in their future in Uzbekistan, they don’t see themselves in Uzbekistan long term…they don’t have a long-term perspective for their stay.”

There is no member of the Karimov family who is a legitimate contender to take over once President Karimov dies. That leaves someone from the inner circle.

There has been a struggle for positioning at the top levels of the Uzbek government for years now. But it’s become more intense in the last year, since the downfall of Gulnara Karimova, the would-be socialite, musician, politician, and presidential daughter. This spectacular fall from grace of not just Gulnara but many of her associates was clearly orchestrated by someone within the Uzbek government.

Lillis said during Karimov’s next presidential term “the question of political stability is going to come to the fore much more…there's going to be a lot of questions about the unresolved succession and I think that we're going to see a lot of behind the scenes, or possibly public infighting.”

The head of Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (SNB), Rustam Inoyatov, is suspected of masterminding Gulnara’s downfall. He is also mentioned as one of the likely successors to Karimov. The fact that Inoyatov, 70, has been the SNB chief for 20 years speaks volumes about the power he must have.

Umarov said he did not believe Inoyatov would succeed Karimov, pointing out that in the wake of the Andijon massacre in May 2005, Inoyatov was one of the Uzbek officials hit by the European Union with a travel ban. President Karimov was not put on that list. So Inoyatov’s odious reputation for violating rights complicates his chances for assuming Uzbekistan’s top post.

But it was noted that the SNB will have a large say in who is chosen to be Uzbekistan’s second president.

The panelists covered much more ground during the discussion, which can be heard in its entirety at:

Turkmen Service Roundtable
Turkmen Service Roundtablei
|| 0:00:00

-- Bruce Pannier


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
February 17, 2015 18:31
What a ridiculous and exaggerated propaganda journalistic article! Citing people who have never seen president Karimov. He is an excellent health. Speculations about his health, death Nd succession are futile, expressed erroneously by literally unknown within the Uzbek political culture who are bested overseas funded by those interested in destabilizing Central Asia. No one knows as anjar umarov in Uzbekistan. This presidential election is facing the major issue of extremism and terrorism. The people of Uzbekistan trust their president and wish that he could anchor them out of this threat. In Central Asia, unlike in the West, constitutions are not aura if versions. This is a liberal secular world. The people of Uzbekistan trust their president and want him to anchor through the threats of ISIL. Being in good health, albeit with manageable health issues they appreciate that he has agreed to lead Uzbekistan for another term. Having been observing the political development and electoral and human rights developments since 1999, I reject Ll of the propaganda journalism pouring venom against Uzbekistan and president Karimov's rule has not succeeded, only has added to self misperceptions of our own US policy makers.
In Response

by: Khamidov from: DC
February 17, 2015 21:32
Waw, Mr. Kazi, I knew the Silk Road Institute, which you belong to is purely ready for hire lobby group, rather than an institute, but I could not expect this much, your eyes are blinded with money of dictators like him.

I know your salary depends on their donations, but think for a moment about this, tell your argument and convince those thousands of people, whose love ones are killed, imprisoned by this man, tell your argument and convince those kids who are every year sent to cotton fields to fed this dictatorship, tell your argument and convince those thousands of people who were shot death by his notorious police force, simply for demonstrating their right of expression, which people in your host country have taken for granted.

You call the participants, as someone who never been to Uzbekistan, well let me tell you, they are born in Uzbekistan they live Uzbekistan every day, as their families are living at the mercy of your beloved hero.

I thought academics check their facts before to right it down. Oh I am sorry, do you still regard yourself as an academic by the way?

In Response

by: George
February 18, 2015 10:18
I wonder what Mr. Kazi and his boss Fred Star has to say about this, now kids in Uzbekistan are sent to collect metals, and some one tells me that Uzbek kids celebrate the opportunity to work for their beloved leader ! ,
In Response

by: peter from: ottawa
February 23, 2015 02:12
Aflak, another hypocrite that promotes dictatorship but doesn't live in one.

by: Justice from: Berlin
February 20, 2015 16:01
Mr. Kazi, did you know that GoU uses Asian Development Bank and World Bank loans, benefits from the name and prestige of these 2 institutions to attracts member country suppliers and contractors, announces the tender announcements on the official websites of these institutions with statements such as "the agency of xxx acting on behalf of Government of Uzbekistan", enters into contracts with these suppliers which state the place for dispute resolution as international arbitration and when there is an arbitral award declaring that the GoU was wrongful and must pay damages, simply ignores these awards, not comply with any international conventions or obligations and realizes the unfair gains by ways of 1-) not paying the services and products despite court orders, 2-) encashing bank guarantees and making profits (and not returning the guarantees despite court orders), 3-) seizing assets such as buildings, machineries.

And did you know that this leads to a scandal which is to use these 2 institutions as a way to earn money over ADB and WB member countries' tax payers and businesses?

Don't get it wrong, these arbitral awards are recognized by the GoU in official letters and there is no objection by GoU in terms of validity, admissibility and legality of these awards. They simply choose to ignore the payments and compliance.

And do you have any info what is the sole basis of their defense for non-payment? They claim that those sub-organizations in the tender announcements and contracts are separate entities with no money and they can not pay the Claimants.

They ignore the fact that the official ADB and WB documents and announcements state the opposite and declare these entities as the state itself and/or acting on behalf of the state, both institutions sign the loan agreements with GoU with sole signature of the Government through Min. of Finance and do not seek sub-loan agreements with these sub-organizations and this means that WB and ADB see these orgs and GoU as one (otherwise would seek separate collateral and commitment from a secondary beneficiary for the money they lend), GoU is a party to the UN New York Convention (simply Google it), the loans lended to GoU come from the tax payers' money of the member states of these banks and by non complying to arbitral awards, they illegally take over national wealth of other member states and most importantly they create a risk for all the other beneficiary countries of these 2 banks which are mostly developing countries that are in need of these loans by creating a precedent method for a perfect murder which is to get the loan, sign the contract with an obligation to go to arbitration and if you lose, simply ignore and don't pay. Do you think that this can be accepted by tax payers and citizens of the member states? Are you aware that if this recent attitude of GoU becomes public, the loans and grants to Uzbekistan will not be effected? the level of trust to Uzbekistan will maintain its current position? other beneficiary countries won't have hard time to obtain funding and lenders won't see the same risk in every beneficiary?

The list goes on an on and there is now a significant amount of foreign and local companies that have been victims of similar actions.

Please wake up and be objective. We all know that you are already aware of realities but it's also obvious that you have a mission to be fulfilled.


About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change. Content will draw on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad. The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

Most Popular

Editor's Picks