Repotted Tulips

After the discomboulating experience of agreeing with the Alan Partridge of human rights advocacy, Craig Murray on vacuous celebrities endorsing brutal autocrats in Central Asia, my eyes traveled east to Kyrgyzstan.

Despite the impression the The West Wing may have given, allowing academics or intellectuals to hold Executive power has a poor track-record: be it Gabriele D’Annunzio’s attempts to establish a Republic of Poetry, or Lithuania and Estonia’s inter-war experiences under Augustinas Voldemort Voldemaras and Konstantin Päts respectively.

High hopes were held for Kyrgyzstan after George Galloway’s saddest day in 1991 when physics professor, Askar Akayev turned-down offers from Moscow to serve as a loyal Vice President of the Kirghiz SSR. Fortunately for proper noun Scrabble-enthusiasts, he stood for and was elected as President of the renamed Kyrgyz Republic.

With pledged support for private property and the economics of Adam Smith rather than Karl Marx, Akayev proceeded to win two subsequent elections, albeit with allegations of electoral fraud. Yet, Krygyzstan chuntered along as a down-at-heel country but with the trappings of functioning democracy and minus the demonic nastiness of many of its adjacent countries. Some much needed income came from the leasing of airbases to both the USAAF and Russian Air Force, at Manas and Kant respectively.

Akayev tried one rigged election too many in March 2005 when events quickly passed out of his control, leading to less than five thousand street-protesters effecting his deposition with no loss of life. Into the breach stepped Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former manual worker who had resigned as Prime Minister in 2002 following the shooting dead of five protesters at the southern town of Aksy.

Unfortunately, the same water which refreshes tulips can also refresh weeds, and Bakiyev soon became dogged by allegations of greater nepotism and authoritarian rule; including a ‘people court’ declaring him to be being responsible for the Aksy shootings.

On 6 April, street-protests started at Talas, in the extreme north-west: amongst other reasons, there was discontent at the predominance in Government of officials from Bakiyev’s home-area around the eastern Fergana Valley. The heavy-handed response from the Government and security forces rallied an greater group which stormed the regional Governor’s residence and briefly help him hostages: support for the protesters went viral faster than for LibDems, and protests had reached the capital at Bishkek the next day.

Bakiyev made a drastic error of judgment when he neutralized any moderating influence by ordering the mass-arrest of opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister and Presidential candidate Almazbek Atambayev, former Parliament Speaker Omurbek Tekebayev and his aide Bolot Cherniazov; and attempting to suppress protests with brute force not even used in 2005.

After the deaths of dozens of protesters and injuries of scores of riot Police (the accompanying photograph shows a remarkable image of the latter looking bloodied and besieged by largely unarmed protesters), Bakiyev retreated to his home-base in Jalal-Abad before being declared persona non grata by the interim President Roza Otunbayeva; who was also a former ally of Bakiyev during the Tulip Revolution, as well as former Foreign Minister and Ambassador toboth the USA and UK.

I imagine the temporary suspension of troop flights from the Manas airbase was to placate any fears that Bakiyev was to receive armed-support. Bishkek residents do have grateful memories for the assistance given following the crash of Itek Flight 737 in August 2008.

Opportunity knocks for Moscow which, although an unpopular and repressive government in its backyard has been overthrown by less than five thousand protesters for the second time in five years, could make use of the democratic process to influence pro-Moscow elements.

It is not outwith the realms of possibility that Moscow was quite happy to see Bakiyev go as punishment for accommodating the Manas airbase despite Moscow’s having offered him $2 billions in aid. That said, Otunbayeva has assured Washington DC that current leases on the Manas airbase will be honoured.

Whatever happens, Otunbayeva has made it clear that her interim Government will initiate new elections by the end of the year. The Kyrgyz have a second chance to get it right.

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11 Responses to “Repotted Tulips”

  1. Полезный идиот Says:

    This isn’t a bad analysis, Alec (which doesnae mean I’m contemplating commissioning you to write for me just yet).

    I think it is undoubtedly the case that Moscow was quite happy to see the back of Bakiyev. Otunbayeva got the same meet-and-greet tour of the high-ups of United Russia (including Putin, and I think, but am not sure, Medvedev too) a few weeks before the coup (and, apparently, promises of funding) that was offered to Nino Burjanadze and at least one other prominent Georgian opposition leader earlier in the year (which no doubt had a part in the authoring of that Georgian “docudrama”). And last I heard Moscow had sent a total of $50m. the new government’s way (partly in loans, more more than half in grants).

    While this quote from Tekebayev, I think when he was PM under Bakiyeb, makes the PM-Pres relationship of Viktor “corpse” Yushchenko and Yuliya “Traitor to the nation” Tymoshenko looks cosy: “{Bakiyev is]
    a dog who should hang himself from the first tree that he sees.”

    Pedantically, Akayev (who, unlike Bakiyev was mostly alright, not brutal and not overly corrupt, as benign dictators go) served as President of the Republic of Kyrgystan before he was elected to that post in the Kyrgyz Republic. (The implication of the name change, adopted at the behest of Akayev and his supporters, surely being to indicate that this was to be a state principally of the Kyrgyz, rather than all of those resident there. Subsequent legislation about dual citizenship – which is permitted only to ethnic Kyrgyz – seem to emphasise that point)

    the impression I get is that Onunbayeva is a fairly decent sort, and one who was wrongly pushed aside post-2005 (which revolution, or rather palace coup, while less bloody than this years, was also not entirely peaceful). Although to my mind the absence of meaningful or enduring political party organizations (or a culture that generates such things)
    means that benign dictatorship (which is immeasurably better than what is on offer in all of the country’s neighbours, more or less. How to describe Kazakhstan? Hmmm.) is what one realistically might hope for, and indeed what one realistically might see return. The lack of natural resources to fight over for personal enrichment probably counts largely itn he country’s favour.

  2. Полезный идиот Says:

    Actually I think Tekebayev was chairman of parliament when he said that. But it does get the TBs-GBs in some context

  3. Karaka Says:

    Ah, I actually did read this post in my version of morning but neglected to comment. One query–Otunbayeva isn’t claiming to be president, is she? My understanding from the english-language reports was that she was merely leading and had not explicitly stated any interest in maintaining a presidency or running for election once things had settled down.

    • Alec Says:

      That’s my impression as well, although the above Idiot will be able to give a better idea. She’s avoiding associating herself with any new government, and is fully planning to hand it over to the population.

      In related news, Basiyev has been welcomed by another thuggish former Soviet factory worker.

      • Karaka Says:

        Shock! Awe!

      • Alec Says:

        Another authoritative woman in political control.

      • Karaka Says:

        My shock and awe was directed at Belarus taking Basiyev in, actually. I’m sort of impressed with Otunbayeva, in honestly.

      • Alec Says:

        So was mine, and so am I. Although not as stylish as Gulnara Karimova, or as photogenic as Yulia Tymoshenko, she does exude quiet confidence and decency… rather like Mo Mowlan.

  4. Полезный идиот Says:

    Lukashenka is beyond parody of late. He wants any company he can get, and when he doesn’t get it, sulks and says, well I prefer being alone then anyway (cf his reponse at not being invited to the nuclear summit thing that Yanukovych went to & that Netanyahu had earlier thrown a huff about) – there was a fine sketch in the current Russian equivalent (sort of…) of “Spitting Image”, “Mult Lichnosti” (sketch is entitled “Son Lukashenka” ie “Lukashenko’s dream”, broadcast earlier this year, which more or less predicted, almost word for word, Lukashenka’s response to not being welcome in “sweaty Washington”. … though on the other hand his sudden, unexpected and unannounced, disappearance, and turning up in Caracas, at no notice whatsoever, on the day that Putin visited Belarus a few weeks ago…is a classic piece of diplomacy.

    He’s clearly a Slavic-accented version of so ronery: so loneski, perhaps.

  5. Полезный идиот Says:

    Oh and at least Otunbayeva doesn’t remind anyone of Harriet Harman. Although, while we are on the topic of opportunistic and unprincipled vile NuLab baddies, it does strike me that her physical demeanour, and the way she wears her scarf, is vaguely reminsicent of Margaret Hodge.

    I would be rather surprised in the Kyrgyz would be happy to have a female leader (as opposed to a president with a v powerful daughter like in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan). cf the comments of the new Ukrainian PM that politics is too much like hard work for women to do (all 30+ ministers are male in that govt), or the fact that “even” in Russia there have only ever been 3 regional governors who were female (and frankly one of those was in charge of a tiny and remote region for a short time so she barely counts)

  6. Two steps forward « Karaka Pend Says:

    […] is also watching Kyrgyzstan over at Rabbit’s Eye View, and he tipped me on the news that newly resigned Former President Bakiyev has headed over to […]

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