Several legal acts regulating the supply and export of natural gas have been introduced in Uzbekistan. These are largely designed to exercise tighter control over the use of gas within and outside of the country. The “blue fuel” is one of the main necessities of the people of Uzbekistan and neighboring countries, especially during the winter season. The new regulations have therefore drawn significant attention in local media sources, which discuss the meaning of these laws and what they may imply for consumers.
On November 26, Internet providers in Tajikistan cut local access to Facebook, the social-networking website, citing an order from the state-run communications agency. The organization initially suggested that the ban was imposed due to “technical problems.” On November 28, however, the agency’s head announced that he had ordered to restrict access to Facebook in response to “public pressure.”
On December 5, the Georgian Parliament approved a resolution that envisages the exoneration of “political prisoners” and people “in political exile,” with 77 votes to 14. The United National Movement (UNM) lawmakers strongly denounced the document whereas the Georgian Dream (GD) parliamentary majority embraced it with standing applauses. The resolution seeks the pardon of 190 prisoners arrested and convicted on diverse criminal charges, and an additional 25 individuals who were sentenced in absentia in Georgia and are presently “in political exile.”
On November 25, 2012, local council elections took place in Kyrgyzstan. Polling stations opened at 8 am in 416 village districts and 25 cities around the country. Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambaev stated that the elections will be honest and went on to add that today power in Kyrgyzstan is not held by one family or one clan, hence the election results cannot be predicted in advance, as in the past. However, despite the president’s optimistic view on elections, the preliminary election results have demonstrated the prevalence of clan politics and regionalism. For example, Ata –Jurt, the party of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, obtained their best results in the southern region of Jalalabad.
Officials, businesses, human rights activists, bloggers and journalists gathered on November 6-9 to discuss internet freedom at the 7th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku. The main purpose of the forum was to bring together various stakeholders to discuss public policy issues related to the Internet. Google Vice President Vert Serf said that Azerbaijan was selected as a host because it pays special attention to the development of information and communications technologies and the internet.
On November 21, the local prosecutor’s office of Kazakhstan’s Almaty region officially requested the provincial court to order an administrative closure of over forty print and online media outlets, including the Russian-language Respublika web-portal and the popular Vzglyad newspaper. The complaint also included the names of two television channels (K-Plus and Stan.tv) whose frequent reporting on Kazakhstan’s domestic politics are widely considered as the most outspoken source of criticism of the country’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his government, especially after the December 2011 bloody events in Zhanaozen.
Uzbekistan’s capital and many districts are suffering from yet another fuel crisis. Fuel shortages have become a regular occurrence in Uzbekistan since 2010. Severe shortages of gasoline in Tashkent were reported on November 13-14, two weeks earlier than last year. Car drivers queue for several hours to fill up their tanks, and are sometimes forced to wait through the night. No official explanations are given for the massive fuel shortages, leaving those affected to speculate on the reasons for their troubles.
On November 16, 2012, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev notified Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambaev of the allocation of a grant in the amount of US$ 25 million to Kyrgyzstan. According to Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev, the Russian grant will be exclusively used to support the state budget. The Prime Minister said that the grant is expected to be transferred by the end of 2012. On November 20, President Atambaev met with Kyrgyzstan’s Minister of Finance Olga Lavrova to underline the importance of the Russian grant and make sure that all the necessary documentation is prepared in a timely manner in order to secure receipt of the grant by the end of 2012. President Atambaev added that the grant will help the government of Kyrgyzstan to maintain fiscal stability in the country.
Abkhazia no longer considers the present format of the Geneva talks suitable and insists that its status be advanced from “participant” to “delegation” in the Geneva process, according to a report issued by Abkhazia’s foreign ministry on November 19.
On October 23, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov announced a so-called presidential plan including a five year economic plan for 2012-2016 and vowed to invest 200 billion manats (US$ 70 billion) into the state and private sectors of the economy to turn Turkmenistan into an industrial state. The plan also aims to bring new reforms in the country’s educational, agricultural and energy sectors. Berdimuhamedov unveiled the presidential plan at an annual meeting of the Council of Elders, an advisory body that meets annually and has no legal authority except for lavishing the president’s new policy initiatives and decisions with praise.