Candidate Akmatbaev

by Nathan Hamm on 4/5/2006 · 4 comments

Bruce Pannier of RFE/RL has a story on Ryspek Akmatbaev’s fight to be allowed to run for parliament to fill the seat left by his murdered brother. Akmatbaev’s candidacy was barred because he had not lived in Kyrgyzstan for the past five years, but for many the more important issue is that he is a criminal. Sure, he cannot be convicted on murder charges due to the statute of limitations, but for many that is not important.

As seen in the following excerpt, Pannier casts this situation as a problem for Bakiev because of his commitment to clean up government and that he must balance this commitment with demands for democracy.

Edil Baisalov heads a coalition of NGOs called For Democracy and Civil Society. He suggests that the president’s pledge to clean up government might be taking a backseat to avoid interfering in the democratic process. Baisalov argues that the Supreme Court erred in paving the way for an Akmatbaev candidacy.

“This [Supreme Court decision to allow Akmatbaev to run] is illegal. Maybe they were afraid of Rysbek Akmatbaev or of something else — [perhaps] protest rallies? Maybe, they have some political purposes. Maybe this is a step against [Prime Minister] Feliks Kulov. My personal opinion is that there was pressure from the White House [the seat of the Kyrgyz presidency] on the Supreme Court.”

I think that Basailov, who happens to be blogger, hits on what the actual issue is and what this reveals about Bakiev’s government. While I admit I haven’t followed the situation as closely as The Golden Road to Samarqand or David Read, the sudden change of heart on Bakiev’s part appears to me to have to do entirely with the protests in Bishkek and a good deal of fear. Protests are all well and good, but mob rule does not a democracy make. Bakiev has not shown much serious effort to foster a democratic culture let alone an understanding of what such efforts might entail. What situations like this do help foster is an unhealthy form of people power, and it’d be grand if Kyrgyzstan had a leader who showed greater ability in forming both a democratic political culture and one that respects the rule of law.

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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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elizabeth April 5, 2006 at 10:00 pm

It’s only been a year, so what does everyone expect really? Certainly this is a test, but hasn’t this whole thing really been ‘putting the cart before the horse’?
As Chesteron wisely said, “You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.”

Nathan April 5, 2006 at 10:25 pm

I don’t expect much, but Bakiev has long struck me as a featherweight who somehow got stuck in with the heavyweights. It’s not so much that he is weak but that he telegraphs indecision and weakness at almost every opportunity.

Brian April 6, 2006 at 10:09 am

I don’t much like Bakiev either. But a wise man once said that democracy is not about who is in power, democracy is about who the next person in power is.
As long Bakiev allows a fair and honest election for his own next term (and keeps the country together until then) frustrated Kyrgyz may choose to fire him… which may be a real good thing. In the meantime, some constitutional reform would be nice.

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