Thursday, October 20, 2016

Networks and Succession Dynamics in Uzbekistan

Brian Hurley
I will not be taking the 2nd half of the course.

President Islam Karimov’s death on September 2, 2016, initiated Uzbekistan’s first succession election of the post-Soviet era. Karimov’s twenty-five year reign has been widely characterized as authoritarian, and his legacy is replete with examples of press censorship, human right’s abuses, and state-sanctioned violence against his citizens.
Despite it’s relative obscurity, Uzbekistan’s looming leadership election has important implications for United States foreign policy in the region. Because Uzbekistan occupies a strategic location near Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, Russia, and China, it plays a part in several overlapping regions of interest. In 2009 for example, the Obama Administration negotiated the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) as a supplement to Pakistan as a means of supplying the war effort in Afghanistan. Shipping supplies through Uzbekistan (among other Central Asian countries) allowed the US to diversify its operations in a way that served the nation’s security interests.
Governing in Central Asia requires leaders to balance the competing clan, business, and political interests within their nation. President Karimov was most closely associated with the powerful Samarkand clan, while the Tashkent clan has historically controlled Uzbekistan’s internal security force, the National Security Service. Clan-based patronage networks operate similarly to the machine politics of New York City’s Tammany Hall. To complicate matters, Reuters has reported that a power-sharing deal among factions is being negotiated. The US has a vested interest in understanding the decision-making and influence dynamics within the Uzbek government, and such an arrangement could complicate the formulation and implementation of American foreign policy.

Research Questions
  • Which clans, politicians, and business elites hold the most influence inside the government and will be critical to shaping the new administration?
    • How might the rumored power-sharing scheme be structured?
  • Which of the current candidates would be best placed to form a stable government by balancing the competing clan, religious, and ethnic ties?

  1. The current interim president and election favorite, Shavkat Mirziyoyev (Samarkand clan), is best positioned to be the successor to President Karimov because of his connections with important state agencies, business elites, and political leaders.
  2. The National Security Service and senior personnel will continue to be the most prominent element of the Tashkent clan and will be critical to any power-sharing agreement.

·     Collecting data on the inner workings of an authoritarian regime is inherently a challenge. The US Embassy in Tashkent will the primary resource for collecting information on ties between Uzbek officials. Clan affiliation and previous work experience is of particular interest. Because of the rivalry that has historically existed amongst government departments in Uzbekistan, incorporating an individuals previous work experience is a critical component of understanding their present allegiances. Publicly available information can also to be used to compile data related to an individual's regional origin, education history and business interests. Finally, I intend to leverage the active community of researchers that specialize in the clan dynamics and politics within Central Asia.
      Nodes will include government officials in the executive and legislative branches, and business elites.
      Ties between the nodes will represent relationships forged through personal and professional connections such as clan affiliation, business ties, and overlapping work history.    

Network Measures
      Because this study seeks to understand the influence networks that may exist in the Uzbek government, measures of Eigenvector, In Degree, and Betweenness are of interest. Individuals with a high Eigenvector score are potential behind the scenes influencers that could play a significant role in the rumored power-sharing scheme. In Degree will be used to identify which people are important information sources that could be used to help shepherd a new government through the transition process. Finally, individuals with high Betweenness measures may be serving as conduits between the main power-sharing factions within the new government.

SNA can help the US government understand the current dynamics that exist inside the Uzbek government. Understanding the current situation will allow the US government to begin planning its regional foreign policy and will enable it to act proactively when the new government is formed.

1 comment:

Christopher Tunnard said...

Great idea, but, as you admit, difficult-to-impossible to accomplish. You've got an excellent Question, one which clearly demonstrates the advantages of an SNA approach, and you've got testable hypotheses. You could have given a bit more thought to the measures; in fact, some of the combined centrality descriptors we covered in class would have not been out of place in your analysis, as those who have info (the Sources) and those who spread it (the Broadcasters) play pivotal roles in a secrecy-laded society like Uzbekistan.

Overall, really nicely done.