Kyrgyzstan Updates

by Nathan Hamm on 3/17/2005 · 3 comments

For the all the news on Kyrgyzstan, click on Manas.

A slew of various updates…

Peace Corps is apparently in standfast (translation – don’t leave town). Understandably but unnecessarily in my opinion.

We found out yesterday about the postponement and being grounded for ten days. Everyone is pissed, including K11’s who have had their vacation plans canceled as well.

Our new country director might just be overly cautious and he is certainly not endearing himself to the volunteers by effectively canceling our spring vacations

RFE/RL reports on the next steps for the protesters. I’ll forget my hopefulness for a while and focus on the pessimism in the article.

Dosym Satpaev, the director of the Kazakhstan-based Political Risks Assessment Group, spoke to RFE/RL from the Kyrgyz capital, where he has been observing the elections. He believes the opposition’s demands are unrealistic.

“These goals are quite ambitious, and I believe they are unrealistic,” Satpaev said. “Why was this declaration made? I believe, after the first and second round of elections to the Jogorku Kenesh, the opposition realized its defeat and therefore decided to stake everything and put out radical demands, because it knows there is no other way.”

Edil Baisalov is the head of a coalition of Kyrgyz NGOs called For Democracy and Civil Society. He agreed with Satpaev, telling RFE/RL that the opposition appears to be trying to force the authorities into making a misstep.

“It seems the opposition is provoking the government to take some steps to add oil to the fire. Many believe that [parliamentary candidate] Kurmanbek Bakiev, who didn’t get elected because of massive election fraud and who does not have parliamentary immunity anymore, could be arrested for his appeals to overthrow the government,” Baisalov said.

The latter of the two said he believes the opposition is trying to limit Akayev’s power to just Bishkek. A cunning strategy, but in some places its execution has kind of bothered me. To offer the pessimist’s view, Kyrgyzstan’s opposition is a group of elites who have fallen from the government’s favor who are trying to coordinate the actions of supporters of particular candidates. Maybe I’m reading the opposition entirely wrong, but the common thread appears to be anger. Ukrainian protesters were, to be sure, angry too. But there was an undercurrent of hope. Maybe it’s the lack of a unified political vision of hope and democracy to unite Kyrgyzstan’s disparate protesters, but for the time being, the bulk of the anger is in the form of “my guy didn’t win.” Bless those who are trying to unite Kyrgyzstan’s disgruntled and I wish those, like KelKel, who do offer an opitimistic vision the best of luck. Everything has played out better than I had expected, so I hope my expectations continue to be defied.

Regardless of what the protesters have planned, Akayev claims to have a secret weapon.

In a reference to events in Ukraine, correspondent Andrei Kondrashov asked Akaev, “Why didn’t the Orange Revolution, which so many spoke of as a threat, succeed in Kyrgyzstan?” Akaev replied, “We carefully studied and drew appropriate lessons from the Orange and Rose revolutions. I’ll tell you right now that we’ve developed our own vaccine, an antivirus, so to speak. I can’t reveal its essence today, since there are still presidential elections in October. If I reveal it, the opposition could use it. But I feel that we’ve discovered an antidote to the ‘tulip’ revolution that they planned in our country.”

My money’s on sharks with laser beams attached to their heads (mp3).

Ambassador Young has criticized the election:

Speaking at news conference, American Ambassador Stephen Young accused Kyrgyz authorities of failing to ensure free-and-fair elections. The two rounds of voting, on February 27 and March 13, handed pro-presidential forces a commanding majority in the next parliament. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Among the most glaring irregularities cited by Young was the government’s manipulation of mass media coverage to favor Akayev supporters. He also criticized judicial rulings that excluding some prominent opposition figures from standing as candidates. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].

“These negative tendencies have damaged Kyrgyzstan’s reputation for promoting democracy,” Young said. He went on to say that “both sides” engaged in “rampant” vote-buying, and called for a “transparent” official investigation into instances of alleged misconduct.

It’s altogether unsurprising to hear that police rescued the officials held hostage in the Talas region. It is encouraging to hear that the protesters had freed the governor already.

Kyrgyz protesters in Talas today released the governor they had been holding captive since they occupied the local administrative building two days ago.

Several thousand protesters who were crowded outside the building allowed their favored candidate, who lost in the recent parliamentary elections, to escort Talas Governor Iskender Aidaraliev to Bishkek.

Addressing the protesters, opposition candidate Ravshan Jeenbekov urged them to cooperate and clear a path for the governor to leave. “There won’t be any obstacle [to the governor’s exit],” Jeenbekov said. “We have decided together with you on that. Do we agree on that? We have agreed! Let’s clear the way! That’s right! Open the way!”

Both Jeenbekov and Aidaraliev are expected to negotiate with the government over the protesters’ demands, which include a repeat of voting in one constituency in Talas and the firing of officials.

This partially deflates some of my criticism above, but also underlines the need for strong, responsible opposition leaders to keep things above the board. There’s more fodder for positivity in the story.

David Lewis is the director of the International Crisis Group’s Central Asia project in Osh, in southern Kyrgyzstan. He said that despite the tensions, protesters have been “quite disciplined” and opposition leaders remain in control of the rallies.

“In most cases [opposition leaders] are pretty much in control of what’s going on — obviously trying to direct people’s discontent towards supporting a change in government policy,” Lewis said. “Their first demand of course is President [Askar] Akaev to step down to have early presidential elections. So they’re trying to be united around that kind of slogan. And there’s some support in the south and places like Talas.”

Like I said, I wish them luck.

A revote has been organized in a couple districts.

And finally, KelKel has issued a call to action and appeal to the people of Kyrgyzstan for support and raise the pressure on the government. My attempts to translate it would be horrible, but you can get the gist at Babel Fish.

Проснись родной мой Кыргызстан!

И бей в колокола по-громче!

Сегодня вновь пришла гроза,

И больше я не буду жить по- волчьи.

Лукавство власти, беспредел:

Забил страну мою, раздел!

И Кыргызстан наш общий дом,

Нуждается сейчас в одном:

Чтоб не пугали нас войной,

Хизб-ут-Тахриром и братвой!

Путь возрождения КелКел нашел,

И в молодежи силу приобрел.

Народ!! КелКелье поддержи!

И солидарность покажи.

Чтоб в одночасье появиться

На площадях Бишкек – столицы.

Тогда и Ош, Талас, Кочкор

Аксы, Баткен и Каракол

Объединиться смогут разом.

В борьбе со злом,

С дурной проказой!


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This post was written by...

– 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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{ 2 comments }

D.B. Light March 17, 2005 at 8:11 pm

It looks from the above posts as though the protesters are lowering their sights and trying to salvage something in terms of policy changes. If Ukraine showed the power of protest to transform a political system, Kyrgyzstan shows its limits.

Nathan March 17, 2005 at 8:17 pm

Since democratization is a process, I’m much more comfortable with policy changes than overthrowing a government. Ukraine actually achieved a policy change – government non-interference in elections – that led to a leadership change.

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