Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Kyrgyzstan's 'bright new dawn' could prove illusory.

The popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan, which came to world attention when seventeen demonstrators were shot dead, eventually resulted in the removal of President Bakiyev and the installation of an interim government. It was a bloody and chaotic revolt which caused upwards of 75 deaths and widespread looting.

Bakiyev has fled Bishkek, taking refuge in the south of the country and sparking fears that a counter-revolution could plunge Kyrgyzstan into civil war. The President has, however, laid down a series of conditions which, if they are met, might secure his resignation. There are indications that he could be prepared to go into exile.

Bakiyev was swept to power in 2005 by the so-called ’Tulip Revolution’, one of a triumverate of ’colour revolutions’ which the media grouped together, in former Soviet republics.

The latest coup is being portrayed by its supporters as a reaffirmation of democratic values, betrayed by Bakiyev. Its opponents imply more machinations from those devious Russians. The western media have, by and large, avoided the latter interpretation.

In Georgia and Ukraine, to a greater or lesser extent part of the common ’European home’, the narrative of democracy betrayed has a degree of credibility. Both Yushchenko and Saakashvili tapped into a popular appetite for free and fair politics, on their respective routes to power.

Kyrgyzstan, inescapably part of Central Asia, does not fit neatly into the same template. Its Tulip revolution, like the latest coup, was violent and its motives were complicated by tribal politics.

Sean’s Russia blog is sceptical that Kyrgyzstan is set for a reaffirmation of democratic values. The democratic credentials of the Tulip Revolution were overstated, he argues, and the same may be true of the latest uprising. He makes a clear distinction between the explosion of popular anger which brought people unto the streets and the political leaders who have harnessed it.

“people who know something about politics in this small, landlocked poor ex-Soviet Republic assert, when it comes to big politics, this week’s “revolution” was nothing more than musical chairs between elite clans.”

In 2005 the clans doing the shoving were from the country’s south, and Bakiyev pushed Akayev from power. The latest coup represents a resurgence from northern Kyrgyz clans.

On Registan, a specialised Central Asian blog, Noah Tucker describes the chaos and violence which followed the Tulip Revolution. The media spotlight on Kyrgyzstan is already fading, and if the interim government takes a firmer grip, it is easy to envisage violent recriminations persisting for many months.

Certainly the FCO's travel advice belies the calmer situation which has prevailed during the last week. It remains a dangerous time for Kyrgyzstan and it is still a long way away from stability, never mind democracy.


Alec said...

Is this Noah Tucker the same as Calvin Tucker's brother?

Chekov said...

I couldn't tell you whether it's the same guy. Although I suspect there aren't too many of them about, writing about international politics, so my guess is yes.

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Noah Tucker said...

So it's very bizarre to randomly find speculation about one's family ties under articles about Kyrgyzstan on the internet, but I'm the Noah Tucker referred to above and no, I'm no relation to Calvin, or Joshua, who also writes about Russia.