Democracy Rising

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Alleged Crime Boss Murdered

Originally posted at NewEurasia

An unexpected end to a story that had been whizzing around for the past month or so. Reputed Crime boss Rysbek Akmatbaev, who had controversially been elected last month, is dead.

Aside from the day Robert Mugabe departs, I will most likely never say these words again but, good riddance. Kyrgyz politics needs to clean up it’s image, and having such questionable MP’s elected is not going to achieve that. Akmatbaev and his brother had caused a number of controversy’s since the Revolution, and quite frankly politics may be better off without them.

Unfortunately the likelihood is that Akmatbaev’s murder is a result of a business dispute - and while one bad egg is gone, another has likely gained a piece of turf. I somehow doubt that Bakiyev’s special forces have come into play…

10 May 2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

Singapore: When The World Stops Watching…

Originally posted at Publius Pundit

…the knives come out.

On Saturday, the small city-state, and economic hub, of Singapore went to the polls to elect a new parliament. For the first time in years the ruling People’s Action Party faced a real challenge to it’s 47-year grip on power - with the opposition gaining a large chunk of the vote, including in the Prime Minister’s own constituency. In spite of electoral rallies that saw tens of thousands attend for the opposition, and barely hundreds for the ruling party - the PAP secured victory.

By no means was their win as a result of ballot-stuffing. The simple truth is that a) about a third of the electorate had no chance to vote as the PAP were returned in 37 seat’s unopposed b) many people were too (wrongly) afraid that the PAP would know who they had voted for and thus be able to punish them c) the media was heavily skewed in favour of the ruling party, with no video of the huge opposition crowds shown on State Television.

Yet despite a landslide 82 seat victory, the knives are already out.

Today one opposition leader, James Gomez, has been arrested on charges of “criminal intimidation” - no doubt a reference to a minor slip up in his registration process. Mr Gomez had accused the Election Commission of losing his papers, only to later discover he had simply misplaced them. For the entire campaign the PAP and state media overhyped the incident at the expense of mentioning government claims to ‘fix’ the opposition. Oh and what’s this? Former P.M of Singapore, and father to current leader, Lee Kuan Yew has said that whether or not other Workers’ Party members connived in the incident was a matter still to be determined. Make of that what you will…

For those of you with some spare time, I recommed reading Wikipedia’s Singapore entry or doing a quick google search to see what kind of ‘Democracy’ Singapore really is. Libel cases and bankruptcy against the opposition, the necessity for a permit to gather in even small groups (check out the fourth video here, to see what happens when you attempt to stage a small unplanned rally), and a media that is dominated (and I mean 100%) by just two companies - one controlled by the state, the other loyal to the PAP - for an idea of how the PAP keeps power.

If Mr Bush is serious about Democracy it is time for him to act against Singapore and encourage it to open up.

I hope this post has raised some awareness on the economic and political enslavement of Singapore’s people. For more on the current crisis check out Singabloodypore and Singapore Election Watch.

Oh, and incidentally the government today alluded to possible controls on Singaporean blogs before the next election. Information Communications and the Arts Minister Dr Lee Boon Yang said the ‘impact of the internet’ on the election would be investigated. With these sites being the only independent voices many Singaporean’s have access to, it appears the government is viewing them as just a big a threat as the failure to flush a toilet.

Free Singapore!

07 May 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kyrgyz Constitutional Reform

Originally posted at NewEurasia

Hoorah! President Kurmanbek Bakiev has finally announced a date for Kyrgyzstan’s new constitutional draft to be completed - August. And further good news, Azimbek Beknazarov, a man who has repeatedly denounced the Head of State’s glaring incompetence has been put in charge.

It’s glaringly obvious that Bakiyev has made these moves in an attempt to defuse tension and disquiet over his current government from the opposition. Yet several key points are now raised.

Firstly when will such reforms actually be implemented? Bakiyev has previously said 2009 - when his current term should conclude - yet this is simply too far away given the mess Kyrgyzstan finds itself in. Is the government prepared to immediately implement reform? We shall see.

Secondly how will the people of Kyrgyzstan vote? The overall popularity of Nursultan Nazarbayev in Bishkek is undeniable. Stability, strong economic growth, an emerging middle-class - will the population, hoping for a similar leader, vote for another strong-man constitution?

Finally and most importantly, will the vote be free and fair? I don’t care what anyone else says but Bakiyev and Saakashvili (in Georgia) achieved completely unrealistic majorities in their post-revolution elections. Whilst in both cases progress had been made, if this was just a mere show for the west, then the chances of the government tweaking the vote are extremely likely.

Im interested to know what form you believe Kyrgyzstan’s political system should take?

I’ll get the ball rolling:

Parliamentary system, with Proportional Representation to guarantee the emergence of ideologically driven political parties. That might go some way to kicking out some of the current corrupt criminals in the National Assembly, and draw to a close the Kyrgyz personality-driven aspect to all politics. The President should only be allowed to stand for one 6 year-term with fairly limited power (dissolving the legislature if it cannot form a government in 30 days, appointing judges, commander-in-chief of the army)

03 May 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kyrgyzstan On The Brink?

Originally posted at NewEurasia

If anyone thought that the mess Kyrgyzstan found itself in during last year - several MP’s murdered and crime infiltrating almost all aspects of political life - was going to get better in 2006, they were severely mistaken.

On Saturday thousands turned out in the pouring Bishkek rain to demand effective government and political reforms. When President Bakiyev arrived to speak he was met with jeers and a threat to get down to governing or face mass nationwide protests.

And today 13 out of 15 ministers handed in their resignations - apparently appalled at the Head of State’s accusations that they were not working satisfactorily. Both the President and Prime Minister naturally rejected these letters, having faced a mammoth task in pushing their candidates through a stubborn parliament late last year.

The effects of all this?

Well first and foremost, Bakiyev has little choice in the long run other than to accept the departure of his cabinet. Legally, but also morally, it is impossible to keep those individuals in their positions when they clearly no longer want to be part of the current government.

The question of replacements then creates the next major obstacle. The current ministers are all Bakiyev and Kulov loyalists, and if they have turned their backs on the leadership there is little hope of finding anyone else prepared to fill the necessary positions.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the current President is attempting to rule in the same manner as his Predecessor. Askar Akayev hoped that by paying lip service to Liberalism and making the occasional gesture to his people he could hold onto power for life. The reason for his regimes collapse was that, in addition to severe economic hardships, he had attempted to create a Democracy faux. When it became apparent that Akayev infact had no interest in true multi-party politics, the civil society he had allowed to grow rose up.

Following the events of last year people are unprepared to accept the lies and incompetence of an authoritarian leader - they know that, if they so wish, such a figure can easily be toppled. In that sense the Tulip Revolution was a true uprising - it changed the mindsets of most Kyrgyz people into determined democrats.

The reality of this new situation does not appear to have hit home for Bakiyev. The only way he will be able to rule now is as a democrat, as a corruption fighter, and a free market economist. The window of opportunity for Kyrgyz dictators closed when the former regime was toppled.

What choices does the current government have?

The current situation is clearly untenable. The government has proven its inability to deal with criminal elements effectively, and Kyrgyzstan cannot afford to wait until new elections in 4 years to clear up the mess.

Bakiyev must immediately hand most of his power to the Legislature. Not only would this increase accountability for the government leader, who would rely on the confidence of Parliament, but would also go some way as to resolving the current ethnic troubles of Kyrgyzstan. The existing scenario where the majority ethnic Kyrgyz are virtually guaranteed power through a strong Presidency is a major stumbling block in breaking the current impasse. If a Parliamentary form of government were to be introduced, the Prime Minister would at least have to share some of the key ministries amongst the Uzbek and Russian minorities.

In addition new elections to parliament are needed, preferably under a form of Proportional Representation. Currently almost all MP’s are independents, many associated with big business, Askar Akayev and the criminal underworld. If representatives began to follow ideological lines, as happens in most party systems, rather than personal interests, Kyrgyzstan may be able to make the necessary turn around.

I fear that, thanks to a year of misrule and broken promises, mistrust is now brewing in the population towards politicians. If Kyrgyzstan cannot find a leader to rely on and trust, its people may turn to more extremist measures. Does President Bakiyev really want his legacy to be the end of Secularism and a triumph for Hizb-ut-Tahrir?

02 May 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

Belarus May Day Protests

Read the full story here at Charter97. And if you want more pics check out Svaboda's images from the day.