Why the change in tone?

by Nathan Hamm on 3/14/2005

In my latest Kyrgyzstan roundup, Laurence comments on something I have been meaning to bring up.

Hi Nathan, Your coverage of Kyrgyzstan reminds me that, when I was living in Uzbekistan, America considered Kyrgyzstan the model Central Asian country, and Akayev the model Central Asian president. US press accounts of Akayev were usually favorable. Kyrgyzstan got lots of US and international aid money. It was a member of the WTO. It was considered relatively free and democratic.

Now, suddenly, the US is complaining, Kyrgyzstan is considered a dictatorship, and Akayev has been demonized.

How quickly views change…

Honestly, I don’t think they have changed as much as they appear. On the continuum, Kyrgyzstan still represents the best government Central Asia has to offer in just about every way I can imagine. Put on the spot, I’m sure that is still the official position of the US government.

The thing is… As good as Kyrgyzstan is in comparison, it has been backsliding lately as Akayev seeks to seal his family’s place at the heights of Kyrgyz power. The change in tone, at least for me, is because it is important to protect and nurture democracy in Kyrgyzstan. It’s not sufficient to say that Akayev isn’t as bad as his neighbors when Akayev isn’t as good as his former self.

I would dispute that anyone is calling his government a dictatorship or that anything that’s been said about him is undeserved. His comments in the lead-up to the election make pretty clear he’s not the democrat he once was and that he views soft authoritarianism as the appropriate form of government for Kyrgyzstan. There is also good reason to believe that he will pull a “My people love me so much!” and stay in office.

So, yeah, there’s been a change in tone, but all in the interest of staving off a continuing slide into authoritarianism. Like I briefly mentioned yesterday, Akayev could have avoided all of this scorn and gained a place as an important elder statesman quite easily.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

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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