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Democracy in Central AsiaCompeting Perspectives and Alternative Strategies$

Mariya Y. Omelicheva

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813160689

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813160689.001.0001

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Political Regimes in Central Asia

Political Regimes in Central Asia

Two Decades after Independence

(p.11) 1 Political Regimes in Central Asia
Democracy in Central Asia

Mariya Y. Omelicheva

University Press of Kentucky

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the lack of true democracy in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan in order to set the stage for a presentation of the study's findings. In the mid-1980s the leadership in the republics of Central Asia was either quiescent in the face of looming changes within the Soviet Union or loyal to the central Soviet leadership and supportive of the Soviet federation's preservation. Ultimately, however, Central Asian governments backed democratization, and the leaders of these republics openly renounced their communist beliefs and affiliations. Western international organizations then launched development, democracy promotion, and security-related projects in these states. Although there were legitimate concerns about these republics' susceptibility to political instability and economic crises, there was also hope that these countries would undergo quick political reform, marketization, and transformation into liberal democratic states. But none of the Central Asian states has met these expectations. Today, Central Asian regimes sit along a continuum of autocracy rather than democracy, their power and authority firmly concentrated in the presidential office and maintained through a combination of repression, co-option, and political constraints on societal institutions.

Keywords:   Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Kyrgyzstan, Venice Commission, Almazbek Atambayev, Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, mahalla

The seeds of democratization were planted in Soviet territory in the mid-1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s charismatic and progressive new leader, launched his extraordinary perestroika and glasnost reforms. Gorbachev’s limited democratization measures removed the obstacles set up by the communist regime to suppress the political activity of the masses. His new policy of electoral democracy permitted the Soviet voters to choose among multiple candidates competing for political posts. Several of the Soviet republics where the non-Russian “nationalities” constituted the majority of the population quickly took advantage of this democratic opening.1 The first competitive elections held in these constitutive units of the Soviet federation brought to power reformist and nationalist movements. Encouraged by the experiences of their neighbors from the former Soviet bloc, the newly elected governments of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania called for secession from the Soviet Union. The nationalist and pro-democracy movements that sprang up in other parts of the USSR unleashed the centrifugal forces that eventually tore it apart.

Unlike the Baltic states, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the republics of Central Asia demanded neither greater democracy nor national independence. Although these southern territories were not completely immune to interethnic conflict and popular dissent, their leadership was either quiescent in the face of looming changes within the Soviet Union or loyal to the central Soviet leadership and supportive of the preservation of the Soviet federation, as was Nursultan Nazarbayev, secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. In the end, sovereignty was thrust upon the

(p.12) Central Asian countries, which were among the last republics to declare their independence.

As the tide of democratic fervor submerged the newly independent states, the Central Asian governments declared their unwavering support for democratization. The leaders of these republics openly renounced their communist beliefs and surrendered their Communist Party membership cards. Encouraged by the democratic rhetoric and reform orientation of these Central Asian leaders, scores of Western international organizations launched development, democracy promotion, and security-related projects in these states. Although there were legitimate concerns about these republics’ susceptibility to political instability and economic crisis, there was also hope that, with the Western governments’ support, these countries would undergo quick political reform and marketization and would transform into liberal democratic states.

None of the Central Asian states has met these expectations. Today, as they were twenty years ago, these Central Asian regimes are located along a continuum of autocracy rather than democracy. Freedom House, a US-based international NGO notable for its research on and advocacy for human rights and democracy, has consistently placed the Central Asian states in the “Not Free” category for the majority of years since their independence. Despite important differences in the extent of control and coercion employed by the Central Asian governments, the underlying political realities are very similar. The power and authority in these republics are firmly concentrated in the office of the president and maintained through a combination of repression, co-option, and political constraints on societal institutions. Former communist functionaries have filled the ranks of new political movements and parties calling for greater democratization, political and economic liberalization, and market reforms. Presidential and parliamentary elections are among the most popular demonstrations of the governments’ “unwavering commitment” to democratization, but they typically fail to meet basic democratic benchmarks. Scores of political organizations are either orchestrated or co-opted by these governments, and most people are unable or unwilling to exercise their political and civil rights. Additionally, political authority in Central Asia has been personalized and conceived in traditional ways. Patronage networks continue to play an important role in determining access to authority and holding important political decisions hostage to the orientations and interests of the ruling elites.2

(p.13) Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s regime exhibits many of the aforementioned characteristics. The republic has been ruled almost single-handedly by its only president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who assumed leadership in 1989 through his appointment as first secretary of the republican branch of the Communist Party and, later, as chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan. Following Kazakhstan’s independence, Nazarbayev ran uncontested in four consecutive presidential elections, all of which he won by margins greater than 90 percent.3 International observers have criticized these elections as neither free nor fair.4 Following the 2005 presidential election, Kazakhstan’s parliament eliminated the term limit for the president, and in 2010 Nazarbayev received lifelong immunity from any prosecution. After the last presidential election in April 2011, the seventy-one-year-old Nazarbayev declared that his landslide victory was a clear indicator of support from the Kazakh people and gave him carte blanche to continue his reforms.5

Similar to his counterparts in other post-Soviet states, Nazarbayev has managed to keep his power by manipulating formal political institutions, emasculating the parliament and judicial branch, and eliminating key political and economic competitors through a series of quasi-constitutional reforms, restrictions on opposition parties, and government repression.6 The Nazarbayev government has also seized control of the republic’s lucrative energy sector by forcing foreign-run oil and gas companies to surrender their stakes and by appointing the president’s family members and loyalists to key business positions.7 The political and economic sectors remain strongly intertwined in Kazakhstan, and informal ties and kinship relations, which guide the distribution of governmental positions and state resources, strengthen the regime’s domination. Recent years have seen yet another worrisome trend: a growing personality cult in Kazakhstan. In a departure from past efforts to avoid public veneration of the president, Nazarbayev was awarded the special title “Leader of the Nation” by the parliament in 2010. The same year, a large public university was named after the president, and a bronze statue of him was mounted in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.8

Despite the country’s lack of civil and political freedoms, in several areas Kazakhstan has taken a more liberal stance. Under Nazarbayev’s leadership, Kazakhstan implemented extensive market reforms and integrated the country into the global economy by following the goals and directions (p.14) laid out in the long-term development strategy known as Kazakhstan-2030, announced by the president in 1997.9 Interested in harnessing the country’s economic potential and making its economy attractive to foreign investors, the Nazarbayev administration exerted a considerable effort to train and educate Kazakhstan’s managers, engineers, and bureaucrats. As a result, it is no exaggeration to say that Kazakhstan has the most professional and efficient managerial and governmental apparatus in the region. The Nazarbayev government also made assessment an integral part of the administrative process, increased transparency in management operations, and supported the development and implementation of tenable benchmarks for progress.10

President Nazarbayev has worked to obtain a favorable international reputation by positioning himself as a pivotal figure for political and economic integration in the region and by presenting his state as a leader and model for development in Central Asia. This longing for international recognition and leadership is driven partly by Nazarbayev’s personality and personal ambitions but also by Kazakhstan’s geographic position, which has shaped its image as a “transcontinental economic bridge” between the West and the East.11 To bolster this international image, the Nazarabayev government announced plans to apply for chairmanship of the OSCE in 2003, an initiative that became a national project. To qualify for this prestigious role, Kazakhstan pledged to rectify the frailty of its democratic institutions. The Nazarbayev government vowed to reform his country’s political practices in accord with the democratic principles epitomized by the OSCE. In 2007 Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, Marat Tazhin, publicly pledged to implement recommendations by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in the areas of elections, legislation on political parties, media freedom, and transparency of political processes.12 In the years that followed, many legislative reforms were initiated, and the government worked with international advisers to develop a new legal concept of criminal and administrative justice. In addition, the National Human Rights Action Plan for 2009–2012 was devised, emphasizing civil and political rights, including freedom of assembly and association. In response to EU criticisms, the parliament of Kazakhstan adopted legislative measures ensuring gender equality and freedom of the Internet, as well as laws protecting privacy and the freedom of human rights activists, among other things.13

Kazakhstan’s promise to establish genuine democratic rule won support (p.15) for its OSCE chairmanship from the US government. “Our broader vision is for a strong, independent, and democratic Kazakhstan that is the leader and anchor of stability in the region. We believe Kazakhstan’s service as chairman in office for the OSCE will help serve that broader vision,” explained George Krol, deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs.14 With the strong political backing of Russia and other post-Soviet states, Kazakhstan received the coveted chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010.

The actual results of the political reforms introduced by Kazakhstan’s government have been mixed. Although Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship was free of the Russian influence and interference that many in the West feared, the progress of reform on the domestic front has been disappointing. Expectations that the OSCE chairmanship would provide an impetus for Kazakhstan’s democratization were not fulfilled, and critics dubbed the Nazarbayev administration’s liberalization efforts “cosmetic.”

Domination of the parliament by the pro-presidential party Nur Otan remains a sore point. Nur Otan won 88 percent of the vote in the 2007 parliamentary elections, making it the only party that met the 7 percent threshold required by law. Either as a preemptive measure kindled by the “Arab Spring” or in response to criticisms of single-party rule in Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev disbanded the national parliament in November 2011 and called for early parliamentary elections on 16 January 2012. To transform the parliament into a multiparty structure, it was decided that at least one of the six parties challenging Nur Otan would be represented in the parliament, even if it failed to achieve the 7 percent threshold. Although the presidential party received more than 80 percent of the votes in this new round of elections, for the first time since Kazakhstan’s independence, two other parties—Ak Zhol and the Communist People’s Party—obtained the required electoral threshold. Both parties are sympathetic to the president, however, and there is still no real opposition party in the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan’s parliament). Several political parties were blocked from running, and a number of candidates were de-registered without due process. The government praised the elections as a sign of Kazakhstan’s political liberalization and movement toward democracy. International observers from the OSCE and other Western states, however, concluded that authorities had failed to meet the necessary conditions for a genuinely pluralistic election. The OSCE commended the administrative and technical side of the election but noted that the ballot counting process lacked transparency and respect for electoral procedures.

(p.16) Human rights in Kazakhstan deteriorated further following a series of minor bomb attacks in 2011, blamed on religious extremists. New legislation enacted immediately after the bombings gave the government unprecedented authority to regulate and control religious communities. This governmental repression culminated in clashes between protesting oil workers and police in the western city of Zhanaozen in December 2011, leaving sixteen people dead. The emergency powers assumed by the government in the wake of the violence in Zhanaozen were used to severely constrain freedom of expression across the country. The government harassed, detained, and prosecuted outspoken civil society activists and journalists attempting to report on the aftermath of the violence. Several opposition groups and media outlets were shut down for propagating “extremism” by the end of 2012.15 In addition, the government has a record of blocking websites that are critical of the regime.


In the early 1990s Kyrgyzstan was perceived as the most advanced country in Central Asia in terms of its pace and depth of democratization. Because of this steadfast commitment to reform, Western commentators nicknamed the republic the “oasis of democracy” in a desert of authoritarianism.16 The first Kyrgyz president was Askar Akayev, a well-known physicist and Communist Party functionary. He committed his country to a course of democracy and marketization, earning a reputation as the Central Asian Thomas Jefferson. Whether because of Western assistance (bordering on pressure) or Akayev’s liberal and progressive outlook, Kyrgyzstan showed many positive signs of achieving a rapid political transformation and economic liberalization in the early 1990s. The country held regular elections that were cautiously commended by the OSCE. It had an active, albeit poorly organized, political opposition and a mushrooming third sector. It flaunted an independent media and press that were free to criticize the governing regime and its leadership. Kyrgyzstan’s citizens had access to diverse views and enjoyed freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.17 Although the country suffered from economic decline, debt, and runaway inflation, the economic and fiscal policies of the Akayev cabinet, directed by advisers from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, liberalized Kyrgyzstan’s economy and broke the state’s monopoly on resources.

Kyrgyzstan’s democratic spring was short-lived, however. Toward the (p.17) end of its first decade of independence, the Akayev administration began to tighten its control over state politics and civil society sectors. By overseeing the quick and chaotic privatization of state-owned enterprises, the president gained control over strategic sectors of Kyrgyzstan’s economy. With their access to economic resources, numerous members of Akayev’s family entered Kyrgyz politics and acquired substantial political authority. A limited number of opposition media sources survived the government’s attack on freedom of the press, and the government retained control over key media outlets.18 Vote rigging, intimidation of political opponents, and tampering with electoral laws became more common by the late 1990s. In the wake of the 2005 parliamentary elections, criticized as neither free nor fair by independent observers, would-be candidates excluded from the ballot staged a series of protests against the government’s electoral fraud. After Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court invalidated the elections, public dissent spread throughout the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, leading to a series of events known as the Tulip Revolution, which culminated in the president’s resignation.

Askar Akayev found refuge in Russia, and President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, leader of the 2005 revolt, came to power, pledging to fight corruption, improve the public welfare, and further democratic reforms. Despite these promises, Bakiyev did a volte-face on the issue of democratic rule. In two years he managed to consolidate all power in the office of the president, while his family, aided by loyal outsiders, seized political, economic, and informational control in Kyrgyzstan.19 In 2007 the Bakiyev government pushed through a public referendum for a new Kyrgyz constitution that endorsed presidential dominance over the other branches of government and eliminated local self-governance. The European Commission for Democracy through Law (better known as the Venice Commission—an advisory body of the Council of Europe that assesses the compatibility of its members’ constitutional laws with liberal democratic principles) reviewed the new Kyrgyz constitution and deemed it undemocratic.20 The same year, in an election widely considered to be lacking transparency, a parliament completely controlled by the pro-presidential party was established. The mainstreaming of nationalist sentiments in Kyrgyzstan’s media and political debate was another worrisome trend of the Bakiyev administration. A growing number of the country’s political elite, not only those residing in the south, turned to nationalist rhetoric, which eventually contributed to the escalation of interethnic violence in Osh and Jalalabad in the summer of 2010.

(p.18) Similar to his predecessor, President Bakiyev was deposed by mass anti-government protests in April 2010 and fled the country. The interim government led by Roza Otunbayeva, a prominent political figure and leader of the democratic opposition against the Akayev and Bakiyev regimes, convened a committee to draft a new constitution, which was approved by referendum in June 2010. The new constitution takes away some presidential powers and shifts others to the prime minister. The right to nominate a candidate to the post of prime minister belongs to the faction, or a coalition of factions, with the majority of seats in the Zhogorku Kenesh (the Kyrgyz parliament). In effect, the new constitution institutionalizes a parliamentary democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

On 30 October 2011 Kyrgyzstan held its first presidential election under the new constitution. The former prime minister and chairperson of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev, won the majority of votes and claimed the presidency. Today, as in the early 1990s, Kyrgyzstan is recognized as the most open and democratic regime among the Central Asian republics. Freedom House designates its political system as a “semi-consolidated authoritarian regime,” while some scholars label it “soft authoritarianism.”21 Unlike in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, there is real political opposition that contributes to pluralism in Kyrgyzstan, but the parties lack a solid ideological basis, experience, and professionalism. Many former Soviet functionaries are in the top power positions. Civil society groups are proliferating, but they are underfunded and politically weak. The political situation in the country has been volatile since the ouster of President Bakiyev, and interethnic riots in the south have been exacerbated by a serious split between northern and southern Kyrgyzstan.22


In recent years Uzbekistan has become a regional front-runner in terms of organizing conferences and seminars on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. A flurry of legislative work has accompanied the rekindled rhetoric of democratization. But despite the number of initiatives related to democratization, Uzbekistan remains, by all practical measures, a nondemocratic state. In fact, it is more undemocratic than its less authoritarian neighbors Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which permit greater social mobility and limited exercise of political freedoms. Uzbekistan has effectively (p.19) curtailed many real expressions of democracy and has devolved into one of the most authoritarian states in the post-Soviet territory.

Similar to President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov has ruled since 1989, when he was appointed head of the republican branch of the Communist Party. Following the declaration of Uzbekistan’s independence in August 1991, Karimov has been reelected four times without any meaningful opposition, which OSCE observers consider inconsistent with the benchmarks for democratic elections.23 The opposition parties were disenfranchised in the early 1990s, and parliamentary oversight and an independent judiciary were jettisoned as well. Media censorship, which was officially banned in 2002, limits people’s access to unexpurgated information and hinders high-quality journalistic practices. The pervasive network of security institutions keeps a watchful eye over the population and effectively roots out any dissent. Contrary to the nature of economic relations in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the state dominates the major sectors of the Uzbek economy, playing the part of owner, distributor, and regulator of economic processes, in addition to its role as the social protector of the population. Western observers concur that the lack of political, economic, and religious freedom constitutes a major obstacle to good governance and development in the republic and serves as a catalyst for the radicalization of Islam in Uzbekistan.24

Although it is authoritarian and repressive, Uzbekistan is not a totalitarian state. Its political processes are tightly controlled by the presidential administration, yet the country boasts modern, smoothly functioning, formal institutions and cautious efforts at industrialization and economic modernization in an attempt to make its economy attractive to investors, particularly financial institutions based in Asia. In January 2002 a nationwide referendum approved a new Uzbek constitution that created a bicameral legislature—Oliy Majlis—consisting of one chamber whose members are directly elected and one whose members are appointed by the president and selected by local legislative bodies. Although the Karimov government likes to point out the existence of a multiparty system, only openly pro-government, pro-Karimov parties can operate legally in Uzbekistan.25 In 2003 the post of prime minister was created through another amendment to the constitution.26 Following the appointment of the first prime minister of Uzbekistan, President Karimov explained that he aimed to create three powerful branches of government to rectify the current situation, where “everything now depends on me.”27

(p.20) In the late 1990s Karimov introduced a new slogan, “From the Strong State—To a Strong Civil Society,” which was further popularized in the 2000s. In essence, this presidential initiative signaled the devolution of state authority to various local institutions—namely, mahalla, praised as the epitome of indigenous self-governance and civil society. As a result of these decentralization reforms, mahalla, consisting of neighborhoods of between 2,000 and 10,000 residents united around a former collective farm, a modern apartment complex, or a block of relatively spread-out family dwellings, have taken over the administration of critical state services such as the collection of utility fees and local business development, among others.28 In addition, the mahalla administration has been tasked with monitoring religious practices and serving as the neighborhood watch against enemies of the state.29 It is not surprising, therefore, that mahalla also devolved into a conduit of state interests at the local level.30

The specter of “color” revolutions left the Karimov administration disconcerted, and a stream of terrorist violence imputed to Islamist fighters provided the government with a pretext for hardening its security measures and tightening its grip on both visitors to Uzbekistan and its own people. In 2005 the Uzbek government expelled many Western organizations, including Freedom House, the BBC, the Eurasian Foundation, and IREX, known for their human rights advocacy and democracy promotion efforts. The activities of the remaining Western agencies, including USAID and Human Rights Watch, were considerably restrained.31 In May 2005 government troops fired without warning at a crowd of largely peaceful protesters in Andijan, killing hundreds of people and blaming Islamists for instigating the unrest. The massacre and the Uzbek government’s refusal to allow an international investigation into the incident led the European Union to impose sanctions, including an arms embargo and a travel ban for senior Uzbek officials. When the US government joined the chorus of criticism, the Karimov cabinet called for the eviction of US troops from the Karshi-Khanabad (K-2) air base.

Ostracized by Western governments and isolated in its international relations, the Karimov regime undertook multiple (albeit largely ceremonial) measures aimed at rebuilding its reputation in the years following the Andijan massacre. Notably, it addressed electoral processes in the context of a “step-by-step” approach to democratization declared by the president in 2008.32 The same year, Uzbekistan overhauled its pretrial detention process and incorporated new habeas corpus regulations into its domestic (p.21) law, requiring a judge to review arrests within seventy-two hours. Specific provisions were added to its criminal codes and criminal procedure codes, banning torture and the attaining of evidence under duress. The government also initiated the digitization of police records in an effort to curb corruption in law enforcement agencies.33 Some of the election-related changes were commended by the OSCE, which nonetheless concluded that Uzbekistan’s election legislation continues to fall short; more important, the good-faith implementation of these new measures is indispensable to ameliorate undesirable electoral practices in Uzbekistan.34 The lack of genuine political freedom, including political pluralism, and the low respect for human rights remain the Karimov administration’s most egregious shortcomings. (p.22)


(1.) The USSR was a multinational state where all Soviet citizens were defined by artificially created “nationalities”—categories associated with lineage, place of birth, language, and culture. Although Russians were the largest national group in the Soviet Union, they were not the majority nationality in many of the constitutive units of the Soviet federation. At the time of its breakup, the USSR was divided into fifteen republics and more than a hundred autonomous regions defined, at least in part, by nationality.

(2.) Neopatrimonialism is an essential element of the political order in Central Asia, where the legal-rational and patrimonial institutions are tightly interwoven and a person’s position and ability to advance do not follow from individual merits but rather from membership in a particular family or clan. For further discussion, see Collins, Clan Politics; Schatz, Modern Clan Politics.

(3.) The first presidential election in Kazakhstan took place in December 1991, immediately following the republic’s independence. A national referendum held in April 1995 extended Nazarbayev’s term until 2000, postponing the second presidential election until 1999. Since Kazakhstan’s first constitution was not adopted until 1993, the 1991 presidential election was not counted toward the two-term limit, and Nazarbayev ran for reelection in 2005. In September 2010 the pro-presidential party, Nur Otan, launched a campaign to make Nazarbayev president (p.162) for life. In response to the loud international outcry against a referendum to extend his term until 2020, Nazarbayev called for a presidential election in 2011, and he claimed another crashing victory.

(4.) International human rights observers have criticized the Nazarbayev regime for its poor human rights record, restrictions on the media, harassment of journalists and human rights defenders, and political crackdowns in the run-up to national elections.

(5.) “Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev Wins Re-election,” BBC News, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12949853 (accessed 4 November 2013).

(6.) Although state repression in Kazakhstan is not as widespread as it is in Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan, it occasionally results in the killing of opposition leaders or their death under suspicious circumstances.

(7.) In 2008 the Kazakhstan parliament approved legislation that authorized the government to amend any contract for extracting the country’s natural resources if these modifications were essential to Kazakhstan’s security and economic interests. The provisions of this legislation were incorporated into the 2010 Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Subsoil and Subsoil Use. See Kuanysh Sarsenbayev, “Kazakhstan Petroleum Industry 2008–2010: Trends of Resource Nationalism Policy,” Journal of World Energy Law and Business 4, no. 4 (2011): 369–79.

(8.) Nagris Kassenova, “Kazakhstan on the Eve of OSCE Chairmanship: Madrid Commitments and Domestic Political Landscape,” EUCAM Commentary 7, 2009, http://aei.pitt.edu/13418/ (accessed 3 November 2013).

(9.) Nursultan Nazarbayev, “Kazakhstan-2030: Prosperity, Security, and the Improvement of Living Conditions for All Kazakhstanis,” Message of the President of the Country to the People of Kazakhstan, 1997, http://www.akorda.kz/en/kazakhstan/kazakhstan2030/strategy_2030 (accessed 1 June 2013).

(10.) Laura L. Adams and Assel Rustemova, “Mass Spectacle and Styles of Governmentality in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,” Europe-Asia Studies 61, no. 7 (2009): 1249–76.

(11.) Nursultan Nazarbayev, “Kazakhstan 2030 in Action [in Russian],” welcome speech, International Conference, Astana, Kazakhstan, 11 October 2005, http://www.zakon.kz/65196-vystuplenie-prezidenta-respubliki.html (accessed 1 June 2013); Richard Weitz, Kazakhstan and the New International Politics of Eurasia (Washington, DC: Central Asia–Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, 2008), 78–79.

(15.) Freedom House, “Freedom in the World 2013,” http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2013 (accessed 1 December 2013).

(16.) Bakyt Beshimov, “Kyrgyzstan: Is Democracy on the Agenda for the Country?” Kyrgyzstan Brief 1 (January–February 2008): 13–19.

(17.) Ibid.

(p.163) (18.) Farhod Tolipov, “Gosudarstva Tsentral’oi Azii: Universal’naya Demokratiya, Natsional’naya Demokratiya ili Prosveschennyi Avtoritarism,” Tsentral’naia Aziia i Kavkaz 2 (2007): 7–19.

(19.) International Crisis Group, “Kyrgyzstan: A Deceptive Calm,” Asia Briefing 9 (14 August 2008), http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/central-asia/kyrgyzstan/B079-kyrgyzstan-a-deceptive-calm.aspx (accessed 1 November 2013).

(20.) Venice Commission, “Venice Commission Opinion on the Constitutional Situation in the Kyrgyz Republic,” 17 December 2007, http://www.venice.coe.int/docs/2007/CDL-AD(2007)045-e.asp (accessed 1 July 2013).

(21.) Freedom House, “Nations in Transit 2012: Kyrgyzstan,” http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2012/kyrgyzstan (accessed 1 July 2013); Edward Schatz, “The Soft Authoritarian Tool Kit: Agenda-Setting Power in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan,” Comparative Politics 41, no. 2 (2009): 203–22.

(23.) The 1995 referendum extended Karimov’s term until 2000. The same year, he was reelected with 91.9 percent of the vote. In 2007, Uzbekistan’s Election Commission ruled Karimov eligible to run for a “second” term on the grounds that his first election occurred before the current 1992 constitution. Therefore, his “first term” began following his election in January 2000. Karimov was approved as a presidential candidate for the 29 March 2015 election, which he won. See Ismailov and Jarabik, “The EU and Uzbekistan.”

(25.) As of 2012, Uzbekistan’s political parties included the People’s Democratic Party, founded by Islam Karimov; the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party; the Liberal-Democratic Party, consisting of government-connected businessmen; and the Milliy Tiklanish (National Revival) Party, consisting of state-supported intellectuals. In 2008 the National Revival Party absorbed the Fidokorlar (Self-Sacrifice) National Democracy Party, created by Karimov as a youth party. In addition, there is the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan. Differences in these parties’ programs are minor, as all the registered parties support the government’s policies. Political movements that are openly critical of the state have not been allowed to register as political parties. See OSCE/ODIHR, “Republic of Uzbekistan Parliamentary Elections 27 December 2009,” OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report, 2010, www.osce.org/odihr/elections/67597 (accessed 1 June 2013).

(26.) Jim Nichol, “Uzbekistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests,” CRS Report for Congress, 27 August 2008, www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS21238.pdf (accessed 3 June 2013); Martin C. Spechler, “Authoritarian Politics and Economic Reform in Uzbekistan: Past, Present and Prospects,” Central Asian Survey 26, no. 2 (2007): 185–202.

(28.) Eric W. Sievers, “Uzbekistan’s Mahalla: From Soviet to Absolutist Residential Community Associations,” Journal of International and Comparative Law at Chicago-Kent 2 (2002): 96.

(p.164) (29.) Neema Noori, “Expanding State Authority, Cutting Back Local Services: Decentralization and Its Contradictions in Uzbekistan,” Central Asian Survey 25, no. 4 (2006): 533–49.

(32.) Islam Karimov, “Address by President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov at Constitution Day,” 9 December 2008, http://www.region.uz/news.php?id=1037&lan=en (accessed 3 June 2013).