Kyrgyzstan: A year of change


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov.) - Officials and the opposition in Kyrgyzstan are celebrating the first anniversary of the people's Tulip Revolution.

A year ago, the interior troops that guarded the house of government in Bishkek left open the northern gate of the surrounding iron fence. The Tulip opposition, which was passing by, took a chance. The year that ensued has commonly been described as "a year of change." The power in the republic fell into the hands of the opposition like a ripe apple.

However, today the former allies are celebrating the first anniversary of the revolution under different slogans. The authorities describe the revolution as "the people's," whereas the opposition thinks "tulip" sounds better. The difference is that some call for carrying on the principles of the revolution, while others think that the revolution actually accomplished nothing at all because its ideals were betrayed and that they should continue in their revolutionary efforts.

The result is another impending crisis of power.

A year ago, everyone in the former Soviet states, and especially in Central Asia, waited for the Velvet Revolution in Kyrgyzstan as a kind of democratic experiment. If successful, the revolution would have spread to the neighboring Central Asian states, primarily Kazakhstan, according to Valentin Bogatyrev, the head of the Institute of Strategic Studies under the Kyrgyz President.

The Untied States spent more than $700 million, according to American experts, on creating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that prepared for the revolution in Kyrgyzstan.

Power changed hands, but the new leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev turned out to be even more pro-Russian than his predecessor. Washington became completely disillusioned with the Kyrgyz experiment.

The new government inherited the country with a foreign debt that equaled 70% of GDP, a stagnating economy on its deathbed, sweeping unemployment, the majority of population living below the poverty line and a totally corrupt and criminalized society.

The republic has not yet overcome the social, political and economic crisis, some Kyrgyz sources said. The situation remains complicated because of the erosion of power and attempts to establish new forms of authoritarian rule.

Nur Omarov, a Kyrgyz political scientist, said the new authorities cut short an all-out destabilization process, but Bakiyev unwisely decided to postpone the constitutional reform (aimed to convert the presidential republic into a parliamentary one), which is fanning public disappointment and political instability.

Omarov said the year of change showed that "people no longer want to remain hostage to the games of unenlightened politicians and unlucky leaders." Most importantly, the new authorities failed to fulfill their pledge to solve social problems. The life of the bulk of the people has not improved noticeably, which is breeding social tensions.

Muratbek Emanaliyev, Doctor of Political Sciences and former Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan, said the new government did not make public a clear-cut program of political, economic and social development, which undermined its image and complicated its goal of overcoming the crisis.

The authorities continue to react to problems, spending too much time on reshuffles and the redivision of power, often to the benefit of the local elites, which will eventually provoke a war of clans at the top. The republic could still fall into further dissolution because the crisis between the powers-that-be and the people is growing.

The new government has not drafted a clear-cut foreign policy either. It "lacks professionalism and requisite knowledge," according to one source, especially with regards to the development of political interaction with Russia, the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Meanwhile, a "big game" is becoming imminent between political heavyweights, such as China, Russia and the U.S., as well as Kazakhstan, which is quickly gaining political weight.

Republican experts are worried that Russia, on which Kyrgyzstan pins its hopes of economic reconstruction, remains undecided. The visit by Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and the organization of interregional cooperation with Russia's Penza Region were good, but insufficient moves for Kyrgyzstan, said the Institute of Strategic Studies' Bogatyrev.

According to former Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Emanaliyev, Russia is keeping the lead in the republic thanks simply to historical reasons. But the realities of the republic have changed and new players have appeared in the region. Moscow should not disregard these facts, provided it wants to maintain its presence in Kyrgyzstan.

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