Some tensions are arising in Uzbekistan between elites with clashing financial pursuits. As new teams of elites emerge and accumulate political energy, these tied to older networks are being pushed out. The newest iteration of this age-old wrestle comes amid an power disaster within the capital, Tashkent. Some additionally see the newest political drama — the dismissal of controversial Tashkent mayor Jahongir Artikhodjaev — as a distraction, drawing public consideration away from Uzbekistan’s better flaws, specifically a governing methodology rooted in widespread corruption, from the which the freezing public is now struggling.
Uzbekistan’s authorities has received considerable monetary and political assist by means of the persistent appeasement of multinational donors out and in of Washington, particularly, by promising transformative democratic reforms whereas consolidating authoritarianism and kleptocratic growth at house.
Artikhodjaev was dismissed by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on January 16 amid a winter power disaster that’s more and more inflicting public misery in Tashkent and throughout the nation. Now ex-mayor, Artikhodjaev nonetheless stays within the authorities given his concurrent positions within the Senate and Metropolis Council in Tashkent. On January 19, it was reported that Artikhodjaev retains immunity as a deputy within the metropolis council and a senator, which shields him from prosecution, arrest, or imprisonment with out the consent of the town council and the senate.
Artikhodjaev grew to become mayor of Tashkent on December 21, 2018. Previous to serving as mayor of Tashkent, together with a interval as performing mayor, Artikhodjaev had been the top of the Tashkent Metropolis Directorate, the company chargeable for the mega city redevelopment undertaking Tashkent Metropolis.
In Uzbekistan, hokims — a time period referring to prime native leaders, akin to regional governors and the mayor of Tashkent — are immediately appointed by the president. Mirziyoyev has talked about direct election of hokims, however that change has not but been severely pursued. In Mirziyoyev’s thoughts, Artikhodjaev was match for the publish of mayor as a result of he was an entrepreneurial, business-minded sort that supposedly ought to have helped create an investor pleasant surroundings within the Uzbek capital.
Artikhodjaev has lengthy confronted allegations of conflicts of interests, specifically involving the $1.3 billion mega city redevelopment undertaking Tashkent Metropolis. The undertaking concerned the demolition of conventional neighborhoods in O’qchi and Olmazor, the place residents had been swiftly strong-armed out of their properties. Furthermore, the wheelchair manufacturing unit Altromark, a overseas enterprise, fought a protracted battle to save lots of its enterprise earlier than being demolished totally in August 2021.
The then-mayor was additionally awarded substantial state assist, together with 30 hectares of land for the development of Akfa College within the Tashkent area. It precipitated broad public discontent and was criticized by the state anti-monopoly committee for unfair benefit because it offered unequal therapy, together with tax exemptions along with land allocation.
Traditionally, kleptocrats within the Uzbek context survive primarily based on their ties to energy, and so far as they’re able to preserve such connections, they’re left to outlive and thrive. Gulnara Karimova is Exhibit A that sustaining such a place requires cooperation with others in the identical kleptocratic community, basically the sharing of financial income. A person can turn into alienated from the community, and dismissed, however the system stays in palace.
Artikhodjaev is prone to proceed his enterprise actions utilizing the general public positions he retains within the senate and metropolis council. It’s doable that he is perhaps restricted in alternatives to realize profitable contracts with no open competitors, as Mirziyoyev has different, extra favored candidates near his family for these privileges.
Immunity for Impunity?
Artikhodjaev has breached the protocols set out within the law on the standing of deputies and senators on two counts. First, Article 6 reads: “A deputy must work in the Legislative Chamber on a permanent basis and, for the period of his term, cannot engage in other types of paid activities, except for scientific and pedagogical ones.” The identical applies for a senator. Whereas serving in these positions, and as mayor, Artikhodjaev remained a businessman, proudly owning the conglomerate Akfa-Artel Group.
Second, Article 11 on the ethics of deputies and senators states, “A deputy, a senator, must strictly observe the norms of ethics. It is inadmissible for a deputy or senator to use his status to the detriment of the legitimate interests of citizens, society and the state.” Artikhodjaev, as mayor, was alleged to have intimidated native journalists and bloggers whose reporting he didn’t welcome. Two Kun.uz journalists resigned following alleged dying threats and threats to unfold rumors that they had been homosexual. That is precisely what its meant by “using power to the detriment of the legitimate interests of citizens” and restraining media freedom.
Firing Artikhodjaev from the Tashkent metropolis authorities but nonetheless permitting him to stay within the central authorities illustrates two issues: First, the anti-corruption reform Mirziyoyev so passionately speaks about is a masquerade and to not be taken severely; and second, impunity for high-level officers continues to prevail in Mirziyoyev’s authorities regardless of the loud rhetoric of reform.
If Mirziyoyev was actually severe about reform and uprooting corruption within the authorities, he would haven’t solely sacked the governor of the capital however adopted by means of with an investigation and prosecution to carry Artikhodjaev accountable for numerous allegations of corruption throughout his tenure. This would come with an open investigation into alleged corruption associated to improvement tasks and land allocation, with particular consideration to conflicts of curiosity and the merciless eviction of residents from their properties. Those that had been deemed ineligible for compensation following their eviction, for not residing within the de facto space on the time of the demolitions, must be compensated pretty.
In gentle of this case, a bunch of further broader suggestions come to thoughts, too. First, the total disclosure by public officers of belongings and earnings by way of an digital system must be required. Ukraine championed this kind of system to sort out public corruption. Second, there should be established a clear database for for public procurement by which tenders and contracts with the federal government and its companies are made public. Third, worldwide monetary establishments have to conduct thorough due diligence prematurely of issuing loans to the federal government of Uzbekistan, particularly to make sure that they won’t contribute to city improvement tasks that contain human rights violations.
And at last, this case additionally proves that judiciary reform and independence of judges are important to the reform of the whole governance system in Uzbekistan. Prosecution isn’t doable with out an unbiased judiciary, and it’s crucial that people utilizing state energy for the needs of self-enrichment are held to account, with out exception.