Democracy Rising

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

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


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