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Central Asia in Focus: Kazakh Opposition Party Denied Registration For 16th Time

Kazakh opposition party denied registration, Taliban rejects Central Asian fuel, the deteriorating human rights situation in Tajikistan, and more.

Alga Kazakhstan activists attempt for the fifth time to submit their registration forms to the Justice Ministry in Astana, Kazakhstan in October 2022. Sanya Tolken (RFE/RL).
Alga Kazakhstan activists attempt for the fifth time to submit their registration forms to the Justice Ministry in Astana, Kazakhstan in October 2022. Sanya Tolken (RFE/RL).

In the Region

Kazakh Opposition Party Denied Registration For 16th Time

Remember December 20, 2019, when Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said Kazakhstan needed a genuine opposition in parliament and ordered registration processes for political parties be eased?

Apparently, no one in the Kazakhstan’s Justice Ministry does.

Kazakhstan’s Justice Ministry just refused to register the opposition Alga (Forward) Kazakhstan party for the sixteenth time since May 2022.

This time, the Justice Ministry said the mandatory list of signatures Alga Kazakhstan handed in did not meet the requirements of the law.

According to Alga Kazakhstan activists, no one at the Justice Ministry felt obligated to explain how the list did not meet the requirements of the law.

Alga Kazakhstan activists said according to the law, they need at least 700 signatures of Kazakh citizens on their registration forms.

Their list had 3,101 signatures with accompanying videos from 1,500 people who signed the registration petition.

After Toqaev’s remarks on opposition parties in December 2019, at least 18 parties tried to register with the Justice Ministry.

When Kazakhstan conducted snap parliamentary elections in March 2023, only two new parties – the Baytaq Green party and Respublica, founded by Kazakh entrepreneurs – were registered to take part.

Both were pro-government.

Why It’s Important: During the protests of January 2022, the biggest protests Kazakhstan has ever seen, one of the demands was for the people to have greater say in how the country was governed.

The peaceful protests turned into the biggest tragedy in Kazakhstan’s history as an independent country when insurrectionists hijacked the demonstrations and violence broke out that left, officially, 238 people dead.

Kazakhstan’s president promised there would be room for genuine opposition parties.

Toqaev even said that is what he wanted.

The dissatisfaction of Kazakhstan’s people is still there.

The refusal of the Justice Ministry to register parties such as Alga Kazakhstan is fuel for the eventual fire that will be lit when the people again tire of empty promises.

Taliban Rejecting Low-Quality Central Asian Fuels

Seems as if some Central Asian businesses are trying to offload substandard fuels to Afghanistan.

A recent report by Kyrgyz media outlet said since late May, the Taliban have sent back shipments of fuel from Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Earlier in July, the Taliban sent back 17 tankers of liquified natural gas to Turkmenistan that Afghanistan’s National Standards Authority (NSA) said were of poor quality.

In June, the Taliban returned 342 metric tons of gasoline Kyrgyzstan shipped to Afghanistan that the NSA head at Afghanistan’s Hairaton port Maulvi Yahya Luqman said was “low-quality.”

In late May, the NSA returned what Afghan media outlet described as “19 (metric) tons of low-quality gas imported from Uzbekistan.”

Why It’s Important: The Central Asian states, except for Tajikistan, and the Taliban are trying to get along.

Officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have visited Kabul since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021 and all the parties have established business relationships.

None of the companies selling these fuels to Afghanistan were named, but three incidents in roughly six weeks’ time looks a little suspicious.

Pawning off substandard fuel won’t help maintain the amicable but fragile relations with the Taliban.

There is also the question of what happened to the fuels the Taliban rejected.

It’s doubtful they were destroyed, which would mean they were resold to someone else.

The Latest Majlis Podcast

This week’s Majlis podcast looks at the July 4 UN press release about Tajikistan.

Several UN special rapporteurs and members of the UN Working on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances contributed to the release, highlighting how quickly the rights situation in Tajikistan is deteriorating.

This week’s guests are:

What I’m Following

Bishkek Court Annuls Decision About Azattyk

The Bishkek City Court has annulled a decision from another court that would have halted operations of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service Azattyk.

The decision brings an end to the more than eight months of court sessions. This is a positive step. However, there is still draft legislation that would force organizations receiving foreign funding to register as foreign agents.

That draft law is due to be debated again when parliament returns from summer break. It would affect Azattyk and many other organizations working in Kyrgyzstan.

Water Woes Continue for Much of Central Asia

Water shortages have been hitting areas of Central Asia for more than one month.

Now add to that the Kazakh industrial city of Temirtau, where, on July 15, the water system broke down leaving some residents without water for four days.

For now, local officials were rotating water deliveries by truck to neighborhoods in Temirtau.

Farmers in Kyrgyzstan’s northern Talas Province say since the start of July they haven’t been receiving enough water for their crops.

In the neighboring Chuy Province, Kyrgyzstan’s Agriculture Ministry on July 14 confirmed water shortages and the accompanying problems for agriculture there.

Residents of Bishkek suburbs Seleksionnoye and Sary-Ozon blocked the road on July 15 to protest not having running water for three months.

Gulf Cooperation Council-Central Asia Summit

Saudi Arabia is hosting the first summit of Central Asian nations and countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council on July 19 in Jeddah.

The Central Asian countries have been noticeably increasing cooperation with countries in the Middle East since Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine.

The Central Asian states are seeking new trade routes through the Middle East and financing and investment from some of the wealthier Gulf states.

Fact of the Week

Turkmen authorities released the results of the recent census that show there are 7,057,841 people in Turkmenistan.

It’s almost certain there are not that many people in Turkmenistan and the true figure might be half of what the Turkmen government is saying.

As for the credibility of Turkmen authorities, they continue to insist there have never been any cases of COVID in the country.

Thanks for Reading

Thanks for reading Central Asia in Focus! I appreciate you sharing it with other readers who may be interested.

Feel free to contact me on Twitter or by responding to this email, especially if you have any questions, comments, or just want to connect about topics concerning Central Asia. See you next week for more on what’s happening in Central Asia.

Until next time,