Heading Towards Stalemate?

by Nathan Hamm on 3/22/2005 · 5 comments

Let me just begin by saying that I’m more than a little disappointed with the lack of leadership on display from the politicians who would have the world recognize them as potential leaders of Kyrgyzstan. Here’s to hoping they get their act together and best of luck to Bakiyev, the only opposition leader who has agreed to negotiate.

You can see video of the Osh protest at the link in this post. The BBC reports that residents said that no one seemed to have been in charge (which I partially doubt because I have a hard time believing an unled mob would seize an airport – let’s agree that whoever is leading things is doing a poor job of it).

Be sure to check in with Ben Paarmann and Gateway Pundit every now and then as they both have things that I sometimes miss.

Larry Tweed in Osh says that he and other Peace Corps Volunteers are safe and adds his observations:

We are on “Regional Standfast”. Standfast is the initial alert given by Peace Corps when political tensions or natural disasters take place. We are to remain at our sites and use discretion when venturing outside our homes. We are a smart group of volunteers. We are alert. We have many local friends. Nuff-said.

Malatov cocktails were thrown. Buildings were taken over. Police and Military personnel dropped their batons, their shields and even their helmets in retreat. A Niva (miniature Russian SUV) rolled around Osh for several hours with roof mounted loud speakers blaring out something to the effect of, “the opposition has taken over the city and set up a new government.”

One intelligent gentlemen whom I know and respect, believes that Akayev will likely resign before realizing his full term (presidential elections will be held on October 27th). But who would fill his shoes?

He has much more to say about the rumors and ideas about what will happen next. He reports that today Osh was “eerily quiet”.

The News

RFE/RL reports that the have been validated:

The head of Kyrgyzstan’s election commission declared today that the majority of the results in the country’s disputed election are valid.

Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said the results validated 69 out of the 75 seats elected to parliament in the polls in February and March. “Today,” he said, “a new parliament has been born.”

Also in the story, Ar-Namys says that it is trying to restore order in the south.

The situation there is reportedly calm today. Emil Aliev, deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s Ar-Namys (Dignity) opposition party, told RFE/RL police and opposition representatives have launched joint patrols in several of the restive regions.

“We should be the first to set an example of obeying the law. For instance, in Osh and Jalal-Abad regions, joint patrols have been organized. Each includes one policeman and two representatives of the people who have stood against the authorities,” Aliev said.

Aliev says protesters also allowed government workers back into their offices.

“The leaders of the movements that have taken control of the southern regions are now making police officers and prosecutor’s office personnel return to their duties and continue their work, now reporting to the newly created people’s keneshes, or people’s parliaments,” Aliev said.

RFE/RL also reports on the opposition’s next steps and the government’s blunders. The government’s mistakes can all be summed up as waiting too long to offer investigations and waiting too long to send in police.

Akayev is pledging not to use force (and will not impose a state of emergency) against the protesters, but still misjudges the reasons for the protests.

Dismissing the unrest as a “temporary phenomenon” by marginal opposition groups encouraged by unnamed foreign forces, he said he was sure the situation could be brought under control quickly.

But, while taking a strong line, he ruled out use of force to crush the protests.

The unrest, he said, had been deliberately staged to provoke authorities to use large-scale force. “In that respect I want to state firmly that I, as a president, will never resort to such steps.”

Well, it’s hard to say how marginal the opposition is when the cards are so heavily stacked against them in an election that would give us some indication of their popularity. It’s also a shame that Akayev appears to be heavily afflicted with CIS Strongman Derangement Syndrome in which all signs of opposition are explained away as being caused by outside forces (which isn’t to say that we can’t blame the whole thing on Arthur Blank).

If he won’t suppress the protesters with force, one has to wonder what he plans to do. The longer the situation simmers, the worse his hand becomes. A protest leader in Osh remarks that he’s probably trying to get the new parliament in as quickly as possible, perhaps to give a democratic gloss to whatever he decides to do.

Akayev is also quoted as saying this in the Reuters story:

“Opposition forces, financed from the outside, are seeking to bring about the collapse of our society. But they must learn not only how to win but how to accept defeat. Many foreign forces are behaving hypocritically towards Kyrgyzstan. They feed our opposition morally and financially,” he said.

Go. Pound. Sand. The argument is 50% b.s. (because we do give money for NGOs and offer moral support to democratic forces) and 50% an indication of Akayev’s lack of commitment to fostering the development of open, democratic institutions in Kyrgyzstan.

In adition to Bakiyev, the leader of the Talas protests, Ravshan Zheyenbekov, is heading to Bishkek for negotiations.

“Opportunities to settle the situation in Talas and in other regions peacefully have not been tapped. The president must demonstrate his will, and the authorities must accept the opposition forces’ demands,” he said.

“The use of force will backfire. The authorities must sit down at the negotiating table,” Zheenbekov said.

To add to the earlier post about observation missions, I should add this story on OSCE criticism of the protesters.

Officials from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) have criticized the actions of the local opposition forces in Kyrgyzstan that have triggered disorder and unrest in the southern part of the country, a source close to the OSCE Center in Bishkek told Interfax on Tuesday.

“Representatives from this organization in Bishkek have made harshly critical comments on the opposition’s actions, assessing them as anti-constitutional and going beyond the acceptable limits,” the source said.

In private conversations, OSCE representatives “agree that among the motives behind the opposition’s unfolding destructive actions was the conclusion that the monitoring mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) made following the first round of the elections,” he said.

Hmmm…. Who is quoted here? Well, no one who is going on the record, but definitely not someone with the OSCE. Leaves plenty of room for speculation, including speculation that this is disinformation planted in the fertile soil of the Russian press by a Kyrgyz informant close to the OSCE mission. I hate to talk about conspiracies, but as far as I can tell, the immediate cause of the protests is the loss of particular candidates and the accompanying feeling that the elections were rigged.

I’ll have more as it becomes available of course.

I should add again that this is all playing out rather differently than I had expected and certainly not the way that one would hope. All things considered, I’m expecting no miraculous outcome and the sudden flowering of democracy and prosperity in Kyrgyzstan. Even with Akayev out of the picture, I imagine that Kyrgyzstan’s place in the world will be much the same and that its domestic politics will still be mostly dominated by elites until a charismatic and popular democratic leader emerges. However, elites competing for resources allows some breathing space that domination by one clan doesn’t.

For the time being though, I can’t help but think that things are heading for stalemate unless some of the protest leaders show more willingness to negotiate and perhaps allow Akayev to finish his term.

Transitions Trends responds (see Laurence’s post too).

For what it’s worth, I more or less agree with the argument and admit that the author knows more about Kyrgyz politics than me. I’m admittedly unclear sometimes and as far as negotiations go, the positions are at loggerheads. That’s the stalemate, and it very well could be short-lived.

The opposition needs to keep up the pressure and gain public support (which it certainly won’t have if it’s borderline anarchic) if it hopes to stand a chance. Akayev is biding his time, waiting for this mysterious cure to the problem. He controls the pursestrings and soon he’ll have considerable control over almost all of the parliament.


Maybe Akayev isn’t serious about negotiating.

Askar Akayev, the President of Kyrgyzstan, said he would not resign and would not cancel parliamentary election results.

“There are clearly no grounds for that and therefore the parliamentary election [results] will not be cancelled. We cannot doubt the legitimacy of newly elected deputies because certain people want it,” Akayev said in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday.

“We have confirmed to international organizations our intention to settle the conflict through talks. We believe force must not be used while settling any issues. All differences should be overcome by political means, i.e. through negotiations,” said President Akayev.

I’m all for negotiations, but this only seems to indicate that a stalemate is on its way.

See page two for pictures.

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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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Tim Russo March 22, 2005 at 12:09 pm

excellent stuff. i’m worried that this could be a bit worse than stalemate. what’s your thought on interference from uzbekistan?

Robert March 22, 2005 at 2:58 pm

Wait, are those the only girls you’re going to provide us with?

D.B. Light March 24, 2005 at 8:30 am

Great stuff:

Several days ago I posted that the Kyrgyz protests didn’t look like they were going anywhere — boy was I wrong!

Keep up the good work.

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