On October 5, the Russian and Tajik defense ministers signed an agreement that extended Russia’s lease of a large army base in the Central Asian country for another 29 years. With the current lease expiring at the end of 2013, the deal guarantees Moscow a continuation of its military presence in Tajikistan until at least 2042. Under the new agreement, Tajikistan will continue hosting Russia’s largest ground force deployed abroad for free. The roughly 7,000 military personnel serving at the base as well as their families will be granted immunity from legal prosecution in the country.
On July 17, 2012, the operation of Uzdunrobita, a subsidiary company of Russian MTS, was suspended by Uzbekistan’s Prosecutor General’s Office, before having its license revoked in August. Uzbekistan’s economic court charged Uzdunrobita with violating the antimonopoly law and the law on consumer rights protection and advertisement. The total sum of the claims raised against Uzdunrobita by the Uzbek prosecution and anti-monopoly bodies exceeds US$ 1 billion, while MTS has already written off over US$ 1 billion in the second quarter of 2012 due to the termination of the company’s operation in Uzbekistan. Russia and other relevant investment stakeholders now seriously reconsider future operation in Uzbekistan.
The outcome of Georgia’s recent parliamentary election through which the ruling party, the United National Movement (UNM), appears to have lost its post-revolutionary grip on power, fundamentally changes the political dynamics in the country. The incumbent elite, under the leadership of President Mikheil Saakashvili, now has to form a new government that prominently incorporates representatives of its main opponent, the Georgian Dream coalition, and the two sides will have to find avenues for cooperation and political reconciliation. The success of this process will depend not only on the policies of the two parties but also on continued support from Georgia’s Western partners in fostering political dialogue and pluralism in the country.
Georgia’s parliamentary elections on October 1, 2012, concluded in a clear victory for the opposition Georgian Dream (GD) coalition. President Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat for his United National Movement (UNM) in an election approved as largely up to standard in preliminary assessments by international monitors. This marks the first step toward a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power in Georgia, which has not experienced such a political development since independence. Yet challenges abound. The election outcome forces the new parliamentary majority to cooperate with the President in the formation of a new government and Georgia is likely to see a chaotic process ahead, which could nevertheless hold positive implications for Georgia’s political evolution.
“Jointly countering terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their manifestations” – in the words of the 2002 Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has long been the main security function of the organization. Yet, the SCO has encountered many of the same problems as other institutions in this realm. These include disagreements over the nature of terrorist threats and their causes, diverging national definitions of terrorism, and national governments eager to maintain freedom of action in this sphere and limit encroachments on their national sovereignty. These constraints have impeded the collective counter-terrorist capabilities of the SCO at a time when terrorist incidents are increasing in its region.
During the past decade the government of Kazakhstan has invested a fortune in the development of e-government and in adapting Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for the delivery of various government services to the general public. These new and ambitious initiatives have set out to change the government system, the ICT landscape and public–private partnership. But experts are divided in their evaluation of e-government strategy in Kazakhstan. Some believe that it would greatly optimize the governance system, including the delivery of state services to the country’s citizens and simplifying business procedures for local and international investors. Others think that it is another expensive but unnecessary round of public administration system reforms.
As the U.S. and NATO prepare to leave Afghanistan Washington, Brussels, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi, Iran, Ankara, Tehran, and Islamabad are all competing to enhance their influence in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan, a weak state whose government just collapsed, exemplifies the process by which the struggle for influence occurs. While Washington is currently negotiating the status of its base at Manas after 2014 and Turkey is the second largest investor in Kyrgyzstan, it is very clear that the real rivalry in Kyrgyzstan is occurring between Russia and China.
As Georgia approaches Election Day on October 1, much attention is paid by international Georgia-watchers to whether these elections will signify a step forward in the consolidation of Georgia’s political system. Indeed, practically all elections held since the Rose Revolution in 2003 have been considered litmus tests of Georgia’s democracy in one way or another. Yet these parliamentary elections, given their function as a scene-setter for the presidential elections scheduled for October 2013, arguably have an unprecedented significance in that they are potentially the first step toward Georgia’s first constitutional and orderly transfer of political power since independence.