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Uzbekistan Ranks at the Bottom Again in Corruption Perception Index

Uzbekistan is scraping the bottom of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index again this year, tied with Turkmenistan at the 177th spot out of 182 countries -- just above Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), North Korea and Somalia.

In an interview with Richard Solash of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Miklos Marschall, the deputy managing director of Transparency International, says that countries that were performing poorly in the past tended to stay in the low rankings: "corruption is so endemic that that is almost the system. So it's not a deviation from the system, it is the system."

The Arab Spring uprisings show that people are losing patience with their corrupt systems, says Marschall. ​​That "should send an important message to some governments in Central Asia and some other places that corruption can lead to regime changes," he said.

Marschall is rather bleak on the prospects for these countries.

"The really, I would say, dark situation [is] in countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, where there is hardly any accountability whatsoever. The governing elites have practically no accountability," he says. "There is no political opposition. There is no civil society. There is no free press. So these are basically almost closed societies, and that's why there is no improvement."

That's a bit harsh, as in Uzbekistan, there is a small, hardy core of human rights defenders and independent journalists who do get the word out, and political opposition groups in exile do have some resonance inside the country, although it is difficult to measure.

In a piece titled "Good Dictator, Bad Dictator," Mary Mitchell at the New Statesman is more pointed on the results of the survey: even as the Arab world is calling for more integrity, the West is cosying up to despotic regimes in Central Asia, she says.

The lessons learned from the Arab Spring hold little weight in Central Asia as western governments continue to befriend two of the world's most corrupt regimes.

The pursuit of US and EU-led relationships with the leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, revealed yesterday by Transparency International to be joint third most corrupt countries in the world, calls their commitment to creating transparent democratic regimes that uphold human rights into question.

Transparency International cautions that their survey is about the perception of corruption and not a measure of actual corruption, i.e. numbers of investigations or prosecutions. In the case of Uzbekistan, we would be likely unable to get that information, anyway. But the perception is based on people's experiences that are well documented, for example, in paying bribes to public officials for basic services.

Uzbekistan Ranks at the Bottom Again in Corruption Perception Index

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