News Digest

Nov 08, 2020

Media Digest

Nov 08, 2020


Biweekly CAW Media Digest.
The Digest provides updates on
the most recent developments in Central Asia.
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Kyrgyzstan - Local Leaders Take Stock, Regional Powers Don't Approve
Despite the constantly shifting date for new elections, acting Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov will need to secure support if he wants to actually be elected to the post. After what were most likely the dirtiest elections in the 30-year history of the Republic, there are many more questions than answers about what direction the government and country will take.
Are nationalist and anti-corruption messages enough to win back the confidence of the Kyrgyz people? Both platforms are hugely important, but the obvious co-opting of rhetoric by government and opposition leaders have left voters more cynical and less engaged while also damaging relations with powerful neighbors.
The Eurasian Economic Union's failure to stop contraband smuggling has impacted the Kyrgyz election drama. Illegal circulation of goods like cigarettes between member states is undercutting the economic union while serving to grow grey economies and fuel criminal groups.
A surprise envoy from Kyrgyzstan to feel out Moscow's reactions was "rejected by absolutely everybody." Russia paused a previously announced $100 million in aid after the resignation of Jeenbekov, and there is little patience for disorder in their "near-abroad."
Chinese representatives have been similarly brusque with the Japarov government. Chinese businesses have been threatened with violence during the protests, while trade between China and Central Asian countries has already been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kazakhstan - It Is Indeed "Very Nice"
Kazakh Tourism has adopted the "Very Nice" phrase famously used by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for official usage. The Borat character and Kazakhs have a long love-hate relationship, with many finding his satirical depiction of Kazakhstan deeply offensive.
Tajikistan - A Possible #MeToo Moment
A court decision that a woman claiming sexual harassment must pay damages to her alleged abuser has enraged Tajiks. The man in question has close connections with the ruling party, but the case has resonated in a country where women often suffer physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their partners.
Turkmenistan - Numbers Do Lie
Cheery media pieces may be an attempt to hide the fact that the isolated country is struggling to feed its people. There is still no official acknowledgement of COVID-19, despite reports of shortages and bans on internal and international travel.
Uzbekistan - "Baby Steps"
The country has applied for membership in the EU's Generalized Scheme of Preferences, despite a poor human rights record. Reforms instituted under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev have made small improvements in several sectors, but Human Rights Watch contends that it is still far too early to consider rewarding Uzbekistan.
Regional News - China, USA, and The Geopolitics of 5+1
Unrest in member and observer states has impacted the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but China remains in a position of power. The economic and diplomatic clout of the country will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, while other participants may come to depend on its support.
As the Trump administration comes to a close, questions arise about the direction of US Central Asian strategy. Policies under Trump were largely similar to those articulated by previous administrations, but the region is growing in complexity and importance.
Uzbek political analyst Farhod Tolipov addresses the "tug of war" that has marked the five Central Asian states and their relationships with neighbors. Far from a traditional realpolitik, different powers like China and the US have differing visions for what 5+1 could mean.

CAW Team