Monday, June 14, 2010

Chaos in Kyrgyzstan

In many ways there is a direct link between the failures of the Tulip Revolution and the recent coup and continuing chaos in Kyrgyzstan. Last April, President Kurmanek Bakiyev was overthrown in a coup. Since the coup, ethnic violent has persisted between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

In 2005, a movement arose to overthrow the longtime leader of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akiyev. Akiyev, a former Communist party leader when Kyrgyzstan was under Soviet authority, ruled in an autocratic and corrupt manner. Bakiyev, a former prime minister under Akiyev, was the beneficiary of the desire to oust the only leader the young country had ever known.

Initially, much enthusiasm greeted Bakiyev’s rise to power. But quickly it was realized that Bakiyev wasn't able to implement the requested reforms that spearheaded the Tulip Revolution. Roza Otunbayeva was one of Bakiyev's backers who soon left his side. At that point it was generally accepted that Bakiyev was becoming an undemocratic leader. This was partly foreshadowed in Bakiyev's undemocratic grab of power during the Tulip Revolution.

Bakiyev's rule was defined by his desire to maintain his position. In April, 2010, Bakiyev was overthrown in a similar (albeit bloody) fashion as his predecessor. Otunbayeva assumed power in a near parallel occurrence to the events of the Tulip Revolution. Otunbayeva has already had to delay promised elections as ethnic violence grips the country.

Uzbek's are roughly equal with Kyrgyz in terms of population in the south of Kygyzstan, the country's borders having been carelessly created by Joseph Stalin. It is in the south, particularly in Osh, that violence between the two groups has exploded. Otunbayeva has limited control in the south. Kyrgyzstan's political and culture divisions have divided the north and the south. Bakiyev's powerbase is in the south and the government has accused him of fanning the flames of violence from exile in order to cause the government considerable trouble. Uzbeks, who have been the majority victims of the violence, tend to support the new government.

In Kyrgyzstan's case, it has been a lack of legitimacy for its leaders that is at the root of the current crisis. The Tulip Revolution produced a brief moment of optimism, but its legacy is in propping up leaders who do not have to answer to their constituency. In Kyrgyzstan's case, a functioning democracy was essential in avoiding this predicament. The problem now is that democracy would only serve to solidify the divisions in the country, whether ethnic or regional. (The HQT-IE)

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