Thursday 23 December 2004
December 23, 2004
Uzbekistan: Expected Low Turnout Reflects Widespread Hopelessness
Elections are intended to be a reflection of the will of the people. Parties might compete for seats in parliament or decide to boycott the vote. Experts might be critical or optimistic about the impact of a legislature. But normally it is voters who ultimately decide when they enter polling stations and cast their ballots. In Uzbekistan, however, voters are faced with limited choices, since opposition parties have been excluded from the 26 December parliamentary elections. Five pro-government parties are vying for 120 lower house seats in the Oliy Majlis, which is set to become bicameral. Uzbek citizens admit they know little about the polls, and many say they don't care about the results, since there is little faith that a new parliament can make a difference.
December 22, 2004
Uzbekistan: Elections Open And Transparent, But Not Free and Fair?
Uzbekistan is set to hold parliamentary elections on 26 December, but it's certain to be a one-sided affair. Opposition parties are not taking part directly in the elections and are urging a boycott by voters, who for their part seem to care little about the upcoming event. Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has sent a "limited mission" to observe the polls, in which five pro-government parties will vie for 120 lower-house seats in the Oliy Majlis or parliament, which is set to become bicameral. Representatives from the CIS, including Russia and Tajikistan, will also monitor the vote.
December 21, 2004
Russia: Freedom House Downgrades Country To 'Not Free' Status
A U.S.-based organization that tracks the progress of political rights and civil liberties across the world says Russia has fallen to the status of "not free." Freedom House points to a growing trend under President Vladimir Putin to "concentrate political authorities, harass and intimidate the media, and politicize the country's law-enforcement system." Elsewhere, Belarus, Armenia, and Romania also saw setbacks, while the organization found encouraging democratic gains in Georgia and Ukraine. Turkmenistan rated among the most repressive countries.
December 20, 2004
Uzbekistan: Tabligh Jamaat Group Added To Uzbek Government's Blacklist
Wahhabists. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Hizb ut-Tahrir. For the last 13 years, these have been names the Uzbek government associated with radical Islam and accused of religious extremism and terrorism. Now a new group, Tabligh Jamaat, has come under government and media scrutiny with eight of its members on trial in Tashkent accused of religious extremism. But independent experts say the organization is peaceful and has become a scapegoat for the anti-Islamic Uzbek government. RFE/RL takes a closer at Tabligh Jamaat and its ideology.
December 17, 2004
2004 And Beyond: Madrid, Beslan Show Terror War Far From Won
With the third full year of the war on terror coming to an end in 2004, it's hard to say whether that war is being won. Optimists point to the relatively low number of catastrophic attacks -- aside from Madrid and Beslan -- during the year. Pessimists say the chances of a major attack might be falling, but that the "jihadist" ideology remains a strong and dangerous force.
December 17, 2004
2004 And Beyond: The Year’s Most Dramatic Stories -- In Quotes
Madrid train bombings, 11 March Dramatic and historic stories filled the news in 2004. The terrorist attacks in Madrid and Beslan, European Union expansion, the war in Iraq and the election fraud drama in Ukraine were just a few of the events that made headlines and caught listeners' ears.
December 16, 2004
Analysis: How Real Are Prospects For Free And Democratic Elections In Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan will hold parliamentary elections on 26 December. At President Islam Karimov's initiative, the newly elected legislature will be bicameral. But many Western and local observers believe that these elections will be neither fair nor democratic because no opposition groups and parties will be represented.
December 15, 2004
Central Asia: New Report Says Banking Woes Hurting Some Central Asian Economies
A new report by the international credit rating agency Standard & Poor's sheds an unflattering light on the banking systems of Central Asia. The report says Kazakhstan has the region's most advanced banking system and accounts for 5 percent of banking assets in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). But the report says the rest of Central Asia lags far behind due to the failure of governments to enact economic and regulatory reforms.
December 13, 2004
East: Yushchenko One Of Many Leaders To Seek Foreign Health Care
Viktor Yushchenko (file photo) On 11 December, doctors announced that Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko has been suffering from the effects of dioxin poisoning. The news appeared to put an end to months of speculation about the mystery illness that has disfigured Yushchenko's face. But it did not come from doctors in Kyiv. It came from Vienna, where Yushchenko has sought medical care since falling ill on the presidential campaign trail in September. His case, however, highlights numerous other examples of leaders in the former communist world who travel abroad for medical care. Why do they do it? Is it simply due to decrepit post-Soviet health care? Or are these leaders worried about their citizens discovering the true state of their frail health?
December 10, 2004
Central Asia: Pakistan Says Militants Kidnap Central Asian Boys For Training
How did a 15-year-old Tajik boy get arrested earlier this year in Pakistan's South Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan? The boy says he was kidnapped. But the Pakistani military says the youth might also have been part of a network of foreign Islamic militants operating in the wild tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan.