Kazakh presidential election results to be announced on April 4; Kazakhstan aims to trade with Russia and China using local currencies by 2018; European Commission asks Astana to help seal Chernobyl plant;
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  • Kazakh Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Kuandyk Turgankulov said that preliminary results of the upcoming presidential elections in Kazakhstan will be announced on April 4. Four candidates passed registration at the Kazakh Central Election Commission (CEC) to participate in the snap presidential elections scheduled for April 3. It is widely believed that Nazarbayev, who has been in power for over 20 years, is supported by about 90 percent of the population, might easily win the election.1 According to an early exit poll, Nazarbayev appears to have won his country's presidential election with almost 95 per cent of the votes.2

    National Bank of Kazakhstan Governor Grigory Marchenko said that Kazakhstan aims to trade with Russia and China using local currencies by 2018. All three countries are currently trading almost wholly in dollars and Kazakhstan want to do away with dollars to increase the share of trade in national currencies.3

    Meanwhile, the European Commission is asking Kazakhstan to help fund the sealing of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, a top EU official said on 29th March which includes the closing the sarcophagus of the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the construction of burial places for nuclear waste. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986 is considered the world’s worst nuclear accident. President Nazarbayev began the process in 1991 to close the nuclear weapons testing ground and remove an abandoned stockpile of around 1,300 nuclear warheads from the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union.4

    However, Tajikistan on April 1st kicked off its twice annual effort to find young men who have failed to complete the country’s compulsory military service and enlist them. The twice-yearly conscription drive aims to draft 15,000 to 16,000 men between the ages of 18 and 27 into the armed forces. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon signed the decree on March 16 to launch this year’s spring campaign, which runs to May 31. The presidential order also decrees the retirement from active duty of military men whose conscription service has been completed.5 In the meanwhile Gallup Poll conducted surveys in 100 countries throughout the world to determine which nation held the highest approval rates of Moscow’s foreign policy and direction. Tajikistan was ranked as the world’s most pro-Russian country having the highest approval rate with 94 percent of those surveyed approving of Russian policy. Only 2 percent of the polled Tajik public disapproves of Moscow’s policies.6

    Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) officials revealed on 29th March that Turkmenistan will lead the organization in 2012. The CIS was formed in 1991 during the breakup of the Soviet Union to develop economic ties between former Soviet republics. It continues to foster relations among member states in the areas of security, lawmaking and trade. Central Asia’s five nations are members along with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia.7

    Germany gave Uzbekistan nearly $100 million to use a military base— in Termez on the Afghan border—while the Central Asian country was still under sanctions imposed by the European Union, according to a document released last week by the German government. The EU imposed sanctions on the Central Asian state in 2005, after a violent crackdown in the Ferghana Valley city of Andijan resulted in hundreds of deaths. The sanctions didn’t expressly prohibit payments for military purposes, however there is opposition especially from the German Left Party against sending money to a repressive regime which also causing a scandal in the country.8

    The Director of Uzbekistan’s Gidroproyekt (Hydropower) institute, Sergei Zhigarev portends through his work in the Pravda Vostoka that a powerful earthquake in mountainous Central Asia could crack open Tajikistan’s hydropower dams creating a tsunami 10 times higher than the one that hit Japan on March 11. The impact can affect many cities and flood dozens of other cities and populated areas in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Uzbekistan, which lies downstream of Tajikistan’s water resources, is strongly opposed to construction of Rogun, saying the dam will severely restrict water needed for its agriculture and population centers.9

    In other developments in the region, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has shown interest in creating a committee to facilitate energy cooperation between member states, SCO General Secretary Muratbek Imanaliyev said this week. He said energy projects like Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline since it goes through the SCO countries, and the pipelines from Kazakhstan to China and from Russia to China are given priority. He expressed his support to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, recognizing its “importance for the settlement of the Afghan issue.”10