Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Monday, October 17, 2005

No Wonder Kazakhstan Looks So Good!

I was considering writing a fairly humourous article about the recent praise heaped on Kazakh President Nazarbayev, and Kyrgyzstan's democratic decline. Instead, recent events in Bishkek are turning me, increasingly, into a sympathiser with the current status quo in Astana. At least Askar Akayev never did anything like this:

A controversial proposal to impose a ban on demonstrations in Kyrgyzstan has drawn a furious reaction from politicians and activists alike. For many, the civil liberties issue goes to the heart of what the new Kyrgyz administration is supposed to be about.

On October 10, Kambaraly Kongantiev, the chairman of the parliamentary committee which deals with legislation and human rights, asked his colleagues to consider introducing a one-year moratorium on “protests, marches or events that pursue as their goal the overthrow of state power and the dissolution of parliament”.

I guess you never know when you have it good. Political Freedom is curtailed in Kazakhstan, without a doubt. Yet as the President himself is saying, with economic progress, people begin to realise their civil liberties and respect/appreciate them too. The short is; globalisation and the free market foster Democracy.

What happened in Kyrgyzstan differs from political evolution where people largely seek property rights and liberty. Most people in Bishkek wanted to replace a Prez who hadn't improved their standard of living. Democracy was a side issue at best. That is why Nazarbayev can continue to fiddle with the constitution. Kazakh's lives are improving greatly, and so they will appreciate/tolerate an extension of Nursultan's term in office. If Akayev had been able to create economic prosperity, he too could have remained in power much longer.

Bakiyev has a clean sheet, where with shrewd moves he can improve the economy (and in effect create a mini-Kazakhstan). However a failure to create this, alongside any Akayev-esque tinkering with the constitution, will ensure he too is hounded out of office. Democracy will not evolve in a situation of extreme poverty such as Kyrgyzstan (I cant think of any poverty stricken democracies). Here people want quick solutions to their problems, not wishy-washy Liberal ideology.

If Nazarbayev sticks to his rhetoric and does indeed let grass-roots Democracy rise, there is no reason why Kazakhstan cannot become a World Power (and im sure it will be within the next decade). That is the dilemna the Kazakh Prez will eventually face. The road he chooses will determine his nations future success, however, right now Kazakhstan looks the best basket to place U.S eggs in...


  • At 8:43 pm, Anonymous Nathan Hamm said…

    What I dig about Nazarbaev is that he is at least cognizant of the future tensions between state and an emergent middle class that will emerge. Whether he's willing to accept them or will recognize the right time to is another matter.

    But at the very lest, he's got a leg up on the East and Southeast Asian leaders that took this path.

    And heck, the way the country's going, I'm more upbeat on it than I am on Russia.

  • At 8:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Political protests are already banned in Kazakhstan; conveniently enough, for the period that includes the presidential campaign.

    Of course, rallies held by the opposition are, by definition, protests-- so they are not allowed.

    The Big N isn't really much better than any of the other regional leaders. He is just far more clever.

  • At 8:35 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Also, I seriously doubt Bakiyev can create a "mini Kazakhstan" in Bishkek. He has two things going against him in this respect:

    1) Lack of natural resources. Kazakhstan far outstrips all other Central Asian nations in terms of its mineral resources. The Big N has those petrodollars to spread around his family and supporters to keep them behind him, and the trickle-down effects are creating enough of a middle class that nobody is marching from Almaty to Astana to protest anything just yet.

    2) North-South and ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan are now much higher than they were in the past, and much higher than in Kazakhstan. And Bakiyev has a potential rival from a different geographical region in Felix Kulov, something that N hasn't had to contend with for quite awhile.


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