Judging Kyrgyzstan’s Revolution

by Nathan Hamm on 1/20/2006 · 5 comments

Tom Wood of IFES has an article at EurasiaNet arguing that many of the negative assessments of Kyrgyzstan’s March revolution miss important positive developments. Positives he cites include:

  • A recognition and acceptance of the ability of normal citizens to change their government (also noted by Matt W in recent comments)
  • The destruction of the parliamentary power of the communist party, a “black hole for innovative thinking.”
  • The completion (for lack of a better word) of the construction of the Kyrgyz nation. (For example, he cites that many government offices display the Kyrgyz seal rather than a photo of the president.)
  • Transparency and consensus in politics have increased since Akaev’s fall

I’m a bit less convinced by Wood’s arguments on Kyrgyz foreign policy. The establishment may be skilled, but Bakiev could really use some work.

Wood acknowledges that there are many problems and that Kyrgyzstan is far from a model for the path other states should take. It is not, he says, an argument for continued authoritarianism though.

In related news, a new political bloc has formed in Kyrgyzstan.

The People’s Coalition of Democratic Forces aims to push the new government to reform the country’s constitution and transform Kyrgyzstan from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government. Despite its seemingly singular purpose, the group is composed of opposition groups representing a wide range of views. As a result, the bloc might have a hard time reaching a consensus within its own ranks.

I wish them luck. Kyrgyzstan would likely be better served by a parliamentary system of government.

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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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Kuda January 21, 2006 at 5:39 am

Not too sure about this one. The positives are not really clear to the people on the street. It did look good – the ‘Revolution’.

Normal citizens changing their government, well yes, but do you think that they can do it again? I am doubtful, though the South could go up at any time. Most citizens are not so enamoured by the new guys for one main reason – money. The changes meant new people in all the departments, institutions and the ‘kreeshi’ changed. So people don’t know who to pay to get along with their lives – corruption etc. is everywhere. Police are charging more than before for even small petty offences otherwise its ‘hand over your documents time’. Sure used to happen under previous Family, but people had got used to knowing who to pay and who not to and how much; now it’s a free market again.

“The destruction of the parliamentary power of the communist party, a “black hole for innovative thinking.””

Aw come on, get real – been dead years in Bishkek. Remember their ooohh ever so big protest when Lenin came down, about 8 people and a dog.

Point three; window dressing. I was in Zsum recently and asked if I could still buy a carpet of Askar, the shop keeper looked displeased at my sarcasm, but said it was only Bakeev on sale now. How quickly Askar was swept from the stall in Zsum.

“Transparency and consensus in politics have increased since Akaev’s fall”

OK, here we have something; has it? I am not sure. The mafia political killings were probably inevitable blood-letting that comes with change. And sure they have shown that Akiev and family stole, stole and stole from the country, but again it was inevitable that they would want to (rightly) blacken his regime so as to point out their immense task ahead etc. But what real transparency? What examples do we have? I am not saying that there are not any but…

Laurence January 21, 2006 at 8:14 am

Nathan, Thank you again for the post — and the interesting comment.

Nathan January 23, 2006 at 1:06 am

Kuda, I think the article gives a bit too sugar-coated an impression, but I assume the author knows his audience will likely have been well steeped in negative assessments. I’m not entirely convinced, myself.

I do think that first point is legit and important though. Whether or not it’s likely that the people will overthrow their government is much less important than everyone’s realization that it’s a real possibility.

Kuda January 23, 2006 at 5:43 am

I agree it is important; I do actually think that the South could undergo serious political upheavals – coming from the streets, so to say. However, I fear that this is more the people behind the people.

I read that Tom Wood is based in the country; I am then surprised that he made some of these comments. In particular the one about the Communist party. It is rather laughable and strikes as being an odd thing to remark on. Again, I felt that he was trying to sell a false picture to his audience, many of whom, I am guessing, have not had the opportunity to visit the country.

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