Central Asia Geopolitical Watch – from June 4 to June 10, 2022

Central Asia Watch Team : Aliya Yechshanova, Amandine Paillette, Sophie Marc, Mathieu Bailly

06/05/2022: Historical constitutional referendum concerning the reduction of the powers of the president in Kazakhstan – Amandine Paillette – 

On June 5, the Kazakh citizens were invited to vote on a constitutional revision proposing a reduction of the presidential powers. This popular consultation follows violent protests in January, during which protesters shared their dissatisfaction towards the government of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Other issues were also on the table, such as income inequality and a sudden increase in gas prices. Elected in June 2019, the Kazakh president declared a state of emergency in a few regions of the country where protests were growing, but quickly extended it to the whole of Kazakhstan. Following this measure, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev authorized the Kazakh police to shoot at demonstrators in order to “destroy” these movements led by “terrorists“. The CSTO was also called in to restore order in the country. The Kazakh president has described these massive demonstrations as an overturn. While these insubordinations ended on January 11, the government of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev filed a constitutional reform with the country’s Constitutional Council on April 22.  

Under Article 44 of the 1995 Constitution, the Kazakh President therefore requested a citizens’ consultation. Thus, Kazakh citizens were asked “Do you approve of the amendments and additions to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan contained in the draft law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On amendments and additions to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan” published in the media on May 6, 2022?“.  With a result of 77.18% ( 6,163,863 votes in favour), the Kazakh people have voted in favour of such a constitutional change. Among the reduction of presidential powers is the inability of the president to cancel decisions of regional and municipal governments. He will no longer be able to belong to a political party and members of his close family will be banned from holding political office. Other measures include the creation of a constitutional court and the abolition of the death penalty.

06/06/2022 : Controversial Kyrgyz health minister jailed – Sophie Marc –

Kyrgyzstan’s Health Minister, Alymkadyr Beishenaliev, has been arrested and is now in prison since Thursday 2 June. He is accused of having bought 2 million doses of Covid 19 vaccine from foreign companies for 20 million dollars when the country did not need them. As a result, 240,000 doses have expired because they were not used. 

The Attorney General’s office has opened seven criminal cases against him: one for bribery, two for soliciting bribes and four for abuse of power and signing deliberately unprofitable contracts. 

The health minister denies all these charges and has suggested that this was revenge on the part of prosecutor general Kurmankul Zulushev. The latter was suspended from his post by the President of Kyrgyzstan, arguing that the personal relations between the two men could affect the impartiality of the investigation. The tone has been raised between Alymkadyr Beishenaliev and Kurmankul Zulushev several times in recent months, notably because of the former’s attitude and methods. 

Alymkadyr Beishenaliev was appointed Minister of Health in October 2020 and is close to Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, who only temporarily suspended him from his duties. Alymkadyr Beishenaliev is known to have recommended the use of wolfsbane, a poisonous plant, as a medicine for Covid 19. The WHO and several activists had condemned his own recommendations as dangerous. 

06/07/2022: Uzbekistan and the UK are ready to increase economic cooperation – Aliya Yechshanova – 

A delegation of representatives of the government and business circles of Great Britain headed by the Deputy Secretary of State for International Trade of Great Britain Mike Freer arrived in Tashkent. The delegation also included representatives of the London Stock Exchange and financial corporations Standard Chartered and TheCityUK. On June 7, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Sardor Umurzakov met with members of the British delegation and discussed with them issues of cooperation in trade, economic, investment and industrial spheres.

During the meeting, the sides noted the progress in building up Uzbek-British trade relations. Thus, as a result of the last year, trade turnover increased on average by 65 %, and exports of Uzbek products to the UK increased by 2.5 times. In the first four months of 2022 alone, trade grew by 68 % compared to last year’s figures, and exports to the UK increased by 2.6 times. Partnership in the field of investment is developing no less successfully. The number of British enterprises in Uzbekistan is growing, and there are excellent prospects for attracting British capital for projects in the fields of textiles and pharmaceuticals, products, information technology, as well as animal husbandry and agro-processing. The parties exchanged views on the prospects of organising training sessions for Uzbek exporters on the use of preferences of the GSP Enhanced Framework system, and also discussed preparations for the 26th Uzbek-British Council on Trade and Industry to be held this autumn.

06/08/2022 : Alstom Africa, Middle East and Central Asia visits Kazakhstan to invest 50 millions euros  – Mathieu Bailly – 

 Andrew DeLeone, President of Alstom Africa, Middle East and Central Asia, travelled to Nour-Sultan, capital of Kazakhstan, on June 8. This visit served to plan a future investment by Alstom of 50 millions euros in the creation of locomotive service centres in the towns of Rudny, Ekibastuz and Arys.

This investment project will be added to the 127 million euros already invested in the country, in particular to produce electric locomotives, point machines and signalling equipment. Alstom employed more than 1000 employees in Kazakhstan.

06/09/2022 : Uzbekistan removes all health restrictions due to Covid 19 – Sophie Marc –

The Uzbek authorities announced on Wednesday 8 June that they were lifting all health restrictions due to Covid 19. Travellers will no longer have to present a PCR test or vaccination certificate to enter the country from June. Twelve checkpoints on the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan that were closed due to the crisis are open again, according to the ministerial statement. 

The country had imposed health restrictions since January 15 to curb the spread of the Omicron variant before lifting quarantine measures for travellers entering the country on March 16. 

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