Tajikistan: President's Son Takes Hard Look at Corruption

The son of Tajikistan’s leader, a 29-year old sometimes touted as a possible successor to the presidency, has announced he has completed a sociological survey on corruption.

As head of the state anticorruption agency, Rustam Emomali was ideally positioned to undertake the task, although the news is likely to have provoked raised eyebrows all the same.

As it happens, many in Tajikistan firmly believe it is the ruling family and their associates that are largely to blame for the rampant bribery, although no comprehensive and independent polling has been done to measure those moods. Tajikistan ranked joint 136th out 165 countries in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index — the same as Nigeria and 17 position below Russia.

Emomali spoke about the research while providing an update on October 27 to his father, President Emomali Rahmon, on his agency’s effort to combat graft over the past year. The aim of the study was to understand the exact causes of corruption and determine public attitudes toward the problem by putting questions to around 88,000 residents, Emomali said. 

Ozodagon website cited Emomali as saying that respondents queried stated they most often confronted corruption in the healthcare and education sectors and while securing services at the birth and marriages registry office.

More than half the people that participated in the survey said some of the most corrupt state organizations in Tajikistan also include the prosecutor’s office, the customs service, national security bodies, the judiciary, and the Interior Ministry.

"As the data shows, bodies tasked with fighting corruption are themselves corrupt,” Emomali was cited as saying.

Tajikistan signed up to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2006, but international organizations vetting the process have expressed concern that progress has been limited. An anticorruption strategy for 2013-2020 was adopted in 2012, but the Asian Development Bank has worried publicly about its prospects.

“Observers are concerned that the new strategy is not based on in-depth assessments of the implementation experience of the previous one and lacks mechanisms to monitor progress and track resources allocated to its implementation. Ministries require capacity development to implement respective action plans,” the ADB said in a country risk assessment completed in late 2015.

Emomali was appointed to head up the anticorruption in March 2015, a job that came on the heels of his appointment to the rank of general at the tender age of 25, when he was also named head of the customs service.

His dizzyingly fast rise through the ranks has aroused some suspicions that nepotism might be at play. 

This kind of dynamic creates skepticism in some quarters about whether the government is genuinely committed to a fair and equitable system of rule.

“While all citizens are formally granted equal rights, widespread corruption and nepotism increasingly limit access to certain rights to those who are better-off and have good connections,” the German-based Bertelsmann Foundation noted in its Transformation Index 2016 report on Tajikistan. “Rampant levels of corruption and abuse of power have remained part of Tajikistan’s political system despite repeated presidential announcements that anticorruption efforts were being stepped up. Public prosecutions of corruption happen almost exclusively at lower levels of state administration, particularly in health, education and agriculture. High-level figures are rarely penalized for corrupt practices.”

Emomali’s pledge to combat corruption is being read on social media as an attempt to nurture a more responsive, socially committed public image and thereby increase his popularity. In recent months, he has taken to joining his father regularly on official visits across the country.

A referendum in May confirmed changes to the constitution that will allow Rahmon to continue serving as president in perpetuity, running in one dubious election after another.

But another option was opened by another amendment that lowered the age at which candidates can stand for president to 30, from the current 35. That provision allows Emomali to stand at the next presidential vote, scheduled for 2020. Emomali will be 33 when that election is due to happen.

Tajikistan: President's Son Takes Hard Look at Corruption

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