Leading From Prison & College Voters

by Nathan Hamm on 1/6/2005 · 3 comments

RFE/RL reports on whether or not imprisoned opposition leader Feliks Kulov can, or even wants to, unite Kyrgyzstan’s opposition from jail.

Described as Kyrgyzstan’s only political prisoner, Kulov has remained politically active while in prison. In November 2001, while in prison, Kulov was elected chairman of an opposition movement called the People’s Congress of Kyrgyzstan, which unites several political parties, such as Ar-Namys, Ata Meken (Fatherland), and the People’s Party. The People’s Congress will be participating in parliamentary elections on 27 February and a presidential poll due in late October.

Observers say Kulov’s influence enables him to unite the Kyrgyz opposition. The question, they say, is whether he wants to.

Recently, the People’s Congress of Kyrgyzstan held negotiations with another opposition movement called the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan. The two groups discussed possible unification ahead of the elections.

Kulov spoke about the negotiations from prison in an interview with RFE/RL: “We had preliminary negotiations with the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan, which was recently established by former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev. We said we support unification. But there must be certain tactics. At this stage, only those with similar political positions must be united.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Bishkek are pressuring students at state-run universities to register as temporary residents, allowing them to vote in the capital. City officials say that this is to guarantee that students are included in the electoral process. Others believe that the sudden interest in following the country’s residence laws has more to do with making the “advice” of instructors to students more impactful in the upcoming parliamentary election. After all, students at foreign-run universities in Bishkek are not being similarly as [updated for accuracy] pressured to register.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Tatyana January 6, 2005 at 12:50 pm

Foreign – run Universities in Bishkek? What kinda animal is that? Are they of same sort as American University in Cairo? But than is professorial body in such an establishment consist only of foreigners, or local educators are employed too? If yes, I don’t see the merit in the claim – surely, local professors can instruct their students on voting matters and if necessary, pressure them with their grades, etc for leverage.
Or they mean foreign students studying in Bishkek? In this case, as non-citizens they have no right to vote anyway.

Nathan January 6, 2005 at 1:00 pm

Here’s the comment from the article:

�In those universities� such as the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas university and the American University-Central Asia, where children are educated by democratic principles,� said former education minister Ishengul Boljurova, �the influence and pressure of instructors on students is much less.�

I updated above.

Based on my experience teaching in Uzbekistan, the teachers (well, most of them) didn’t want to bring politics into the class, but were pressured from above. I would presume that the Turkish and American universities are much less likely to require their instructors to stump for the president to keep their jobs.

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