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Tajikistan: President Reshuffles Government

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov has reshuffled the government. The official reason is to bring in some fresh faces and talents. But some say the changes are aimed more at bolstering the president's party ahead of parliamentary elections next year.

Prague, 22 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- This week, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov made some changes to the country's ministries and state institutions, consolidating some ministries and bringing in new people.

The president's office said the reshuffling was meant to reduce bureaucracy and promote younger people to higher office. Presidential press secretary Abdufattoh Sharipov explains that the main purpose of these changes at the state commissions and ministries level, and in "the administration of the president, cities and districts, [is] to attract young and talented cadres to the affairs of government. And this step will also be a major factor in reducing the bureaucracy, so there won't be any duplication."

Among the changes, several food industry corporations were transferred to the Agricultural Ministry. The ministries for environmental protection and the industrial forestry association were merged into a state committee.

The head of the state electricity company, Jurabek Nurmukhamadov, was named new energy minister. He will keep his position at the electrical utility and will also head the country's state gas producer, Tajikgaz.

It's hard to understand why the president would feel the need to concentrate more power within his own party.
It's still unclear what effect the changes will have on the operations of these institutions.

One local analyst, Davlatshom Shonusayriyev, said he doesn't believe the new ministries and faces will lead to any improvements: "These changes of personnel were purely done on the basis of their individual commitments to President Rakhmonov. I'm doubtful about the success of this reshuffle," he says. "The experience of recent years shows that government reshuffles have not yielded any positive signs or benefits and everybody knows that all this movement, like before, is a kind of chess game. I think this process has not been successful in the past and it will not be in the future. They [in the government] are hoping these new people will be better, but I'm sure that these new people will also be replaced in time. Generally, the Tajik government does not have any clear policy of changing personnel, therefore every reshuffle fails."

Some politicians have cast doubt on the president's motives in making the changes. All of the new appointees are members of the president's own People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan. One of the new officials, Abdujabbaor Rakhmonov, the new chairman of the State TV and Radio Committee, is from the president's home province.

Shokirjon Hakimov, of the Social Democratic Party, says he regrets that more talented officials from other parties were not promoted. "It would be sensible if the government would invite members of [other] political parties who are talented and have good professional skills and could be useful in promoting the Tajik economy, especially a free market economy," he said. "I think such a step would be useful for Tajikistan."

RFE/RL has reported several times in recent months about the declining fortunes of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, the backbone of the government's military opponents during the civil war.

One senior member of the party was jailed earlier this month. Other supporters face charges, and even party chairman Said Abdullo Nuri was the subject of a strange report in September appearing on the website of the state news agency Khovar, which alleged he had connections with a murder in northern Tajikistan. No official has been able to explain how that report aired.

It's hard to understand why the president would feel the need to concentrate more power within his own party. The People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan already has a strong majority of seats in parliament and many of the top government posts.

The Tajik opposition's share of the government, meanwhile, has fallen to just 5 percent after gaining 30 percent of the positions in government in accordance with the 1997 peace deal that ended a five-year civil war.

(Sojida Djakhfarova of the Tajik Service contributed to this report.)