The recent, abortive invasion of Tajikistan from Uzbekistan (see the Monitor, November 4-10) has helped advance the difficult political accommodation between the Dushanbe government and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). These two long-standing enemies joined forces to defeat the Uzbek-led effort. Both sought to avoid yielding to the Uzbek-inhabited Leninabad region a share of the state power which they are in the process of dividing among themselves. Their loss could have been substantial: the rebel commander, ex-Colonel Mahmud Hudoberdiev, demanded 40 percent of government posts for the Leninabad region’s political representatives. That quota almost coincides with the region’s percentage of the country’s total population. Furthermore, the government and the opposition acted in the common interest of curbing Uzbekistan’s political influence in Dushanbe. That influence constrained the government’s freedom of maneuver and worked against the acceptance of moderate Islamists into Tajikistan’s political system.
One immediate result has been the parliament’s approval of UTO nominees for major government posts. The parliament, largely controlled by the executive power, had rejected those nominations last May and froze the process subsequently. Following the common victory, however, the parliament at the behest of President Imomali Rahmonov confirmed UTO’s Akbar Turajonzoda as First Deputy Prime Minister, Zokir Vazirov as Deputy Prime Minister, Dovlat Usmon as Economics and Foreign Trade Minister and Shodi Kabirov as Agriculture Minister. The parliament also agreed to consider a revised draft law on the operation of political parties. Last May, the parliament had adopted a law that banned “religious parties,” that is, the Islamic Renaissance Party which is the mainstay of the UTO (Radio Dushanbe, November 13-14; Itar-Tass, November 15-16).
The accommodation between government and opposition on a bilateral basis promotes peace and stability in the short term, but may well become destabilizing in the medium term if the two partners continue to exclude the Leninabad region from power-sharing. The current power-sharing deal is, in effect, one between two small regions–Kulob (southern Tajikistan), the political base of the government; and Karategin (north-central Tajikistan), the political base of the UTO leadership.
Flush with the victory in–and over–the Leninabad region, Rahmonov has vowed that “there will never be a ‘third force’ in Tajikistan.” His justice minister has called for a legal ban on the People’s Unity Party (PUP), which is precisely what Tajiks mean by “third force.” The PUP, led by former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullajonov, represents the Leninabad region’s interests. The PUP and UTO last year considered forming a political alliance to counterbalance the government, but the UTO ultimately gave up the idea, opting for a bilateral deal with Rahmonov. Should the power-sharing remain confined to these two regional interest groups, the disenfranchised Leninabad region would, sooner or later, inevitably protest–and Uzbekistan would gain new opportunities for mischief-making. –VS
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