Erk Leader Speaks Out

by Laurence on 6/3/2005 · 3 comments

To Agence France Press:

The exiled leader of the banned Erk (freedom) opposition party, Mukhammad Salikh, called on Washington to stop backing Uzbekistan.

“The regime became more repressive after it signed a strategic agreement with the United States in 2002,” Salikh said.

“We suggest to Uzbekistan’s strategic partners that they cancel their assistance — you will see, this regime will collapse within six months. We want to start a peaceful transition toward a new political system.”

For those who don’t know Salikh’s political background, IMHO Erk is essentially a pan-Turkic pan-Islamic party. Salikh supported the Taliban in Afghanistan and was chased out of Uzbekistan by Karimov, accused of conspiracy, after Salikh praised the 1999 Tashkent bombings. You might draw your own conclusions after visiting their website, here, strangely silent about certain past political positions held by Mukhammad Salikh–such as the banning of music. Perhaps this paragraph from the party program helps explain some of Salikh’s pr-success:

Democratic party “ERK” expresses sincere gratitude to the head of the representative office of the International Republican Institute in Tashkent, Mr. Greg Stevenson; the head of the representative office of the National Democratic Institute in Tashkent, Mr. Richard Glaub; to all their assistants, expert groups of lawyers from the USA, Russia and Kazakhstan for their invaluable help in the creation and expert estimation of the Party Program and Rules project.

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Tim Russo June 3, 2005 at 8:43 pm

NDI & IRI are both non-partisan in their programming. They train lots of parties, both opposition and ruling parties, with platforms that might seem at first glance, to say the least, odd. One of the most time-consuming and important tasks of any political party strengthening program is to spend limited funds effectively, and fairly, often in the context of electoral fraud and authoritarian oppression.

The parties which get training from such NGOs are not shy about cloaking themselves in the legitimacy they feel their training partners may give them, however slight. That’s why NDI & IRI appear on ERK’s website. Ruling parties do the same, except through state-owned media. Getting used in this manner simply goes with the territory. Striking this balance is a high priority for any NDI & IRI political party programs.

With few exceptions, there are no litmus tests for which party gets training. I never trained Communists with NDI. That was my one red line I never crossed. As for ‘Islamist’ parties, I know that USAID requires recepients of US training funds in the West Bank to sign a declaration against support for terrorism…I don’t know if this applies in Uzbekistan. It is a controversial requirement, and often results in worthy recipients refusing on principle to sign a US requirement for funds, even if the applicant indeed does not support terrorism. Whatever the local requirements, I am sure the calculus in Uzbekistan is made on all the available information.

It’s easy to cherry pick the less attractive aspects of certain political parties in order to argue a certain point of view. It is much harder to actually train political parties…especially in a place like Uzbekistan.

Nathan June 4, 2005 at 1:18 pm

If anyone wants to know why I’m so skeptical of the media calling certain politicians “the leader of Uzbekistan’s democratic opposition,” Salikh is why.

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