Power and Change in Central Asia

Power and Change in Central Asia

Power and Change in Central Asia

Power and Change in Central Asia


This collection of writings is a comparison of political change, leadership style and stability in Central Asia. It comprises case studies from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.



A president and his rivals

Muriel Atkin

Presidential rule in post-Soviet Tajikistan is unlike that in any other Central Asian state. the current president, Imomali Rahmonov, is not a former first secretary of a republican Communist Party who made himself president, emulating Gorbachev, before the fall of the Soviet Union and managed to hold on to power ever since (as in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, or Turkmenistan). Nor is he someone who achieved some standing for non-political achievements and was tapped to embody a new kind of political order, intended to be different from the Soviet legacy (as in Kyrgyzstan). There were people in Tajikistan who wanted to play those roles, but they either lost power or never had it. Rahmonov's main qualification for leadership, at least at first, was his insignificance. Within a few months in 1992, this man who was not yet forty went from being the director of the sovkhoz (state farm) where he grew up, to the speaker of Tajikistan's Supreme Soviet, at the time, the highest office in the state. At least at the outset, he was the figurehead for other men who wanted to preserve the substance of Soviet-style rule by a self-selected elite and fought a civil war to get what they wanted.

Ironically, Rahmonov proved to be a survivor, although his hold on power remains precarious. Several of those who had expected to be the power behind the throne have themselves fallen. Rahmonov was elected president, when that office was re-established in 1994, and has ruled ever since, though 'ruled' may be an overly optimistic term. the government's writ barely applies in some parts of the country. Even apart from that, the government is in such a weak financial position that it cannot afford to do what needs to be done to address the country's problems and has little vision of what the effective remedies might be. Although the most intense phase of the civil war ended in early 1993, fighting continued through the end of the decade. a fragile peace accord was concluded in 1997 and began to be implemented in 1998, but many difficulties remain and a secure peace does not yet exist. Some of Rahmonov's erstwhile allies have turned against him, using force as well as politics in attempts to oust him. a striking feature of Tajikistan's political volatility is the extent to which that derives from conflict within the coalition which appeared to win in 1993, not just the more obvious antagonism between that coalition and the Opposition. At times, contemporary Tajikistani politics appears to be the war of all against all.

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