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A Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864; it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Current concerns include: privatization of state-owned enterprises, expansion of democracy and political freedoms, inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism.
Update No: 262 - (22/10/02)
The Kyrgyz regime under President Askar Akayev has made a fateful step. It has asked in the Americans. He went to Washington recently to cement the new relationship, Bush finds no difficulty in embracing dictatorial regimes in Central Asia, as Clinton did.
The US the key partner
The Kyrgyz are not hostile to Russia, with which they have no common border, or to Russians. Indeed they want to keep the locals as citizens wherever possible, aware of their skills and likely contribution to the economy.
But the US represents a far more enticing prospect, with abundant US investment the ultimate prize, as well as access to US know-how and higher education.
President Akayev spent 17 years in Leningrad, first being trained as a physicist and then working as a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences there. But he knows that the key country today for the natural sciences is the US, the recipient of the bulk of the world's research funds, scientific papers, Nobel prizes and the like. The US has the vital charisma, not Russia.
The anti-terrorism campaign
The occasion for this crucial re-alignment was of course the aftermath of the events of 9:11 last year. The US was immediately given the use of a vital base, the Manas base outside Bishkek. It is three miles square and should eventually have a complement of 3,000 personnel, experts in intelligence and field operations.
It is only 150km from the Chinese border, a most important factor which indicates yet another tilt in Kyrgyz policy, away from Beijing to Washington. The logic of keeping a certain distance from Russia and China, the giants of Eurasia, in favour of closer ties with the US is compelling.
Coming Global Mountain Summit
In late October, Bishkek will host a Global Mountain Summit, to which UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has accepted an invitation. Celebrating 2,200 years of independent statehood, the summit is an attempt to broaden the legitimacy of the regime and reach out to the wider world beyond the Central Asian mountains on which Kyrgyzstan's nomadic identity has been based.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Kyrgyzstan, Siberian oblasts to expand economic cooperation
A Russian delegation headed by the presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District, Leonid Drachevskii, and including the governors of Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Tomsk oblasts held talks on 30th September with Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev and on 1st October with Prime Minister, Nikolai Tanaev, on expanding bilateral economic cooperation and trade, ITAR-TASS and akipress.org reported.
Trade turnover between Kyrgyzstan and the Siberian Federal District currently stands at US$36.3m. The timber and agro-industrial sectors, chemical and petrochemical industries, food processing and machine building were named as the most promising sectors for expanding cooperation.
FOREIGN LOANS & AID
US aid to Kyrgyzstan augmented.
Total US financial aid to Kyrgyzstan this year will amount to US$92m, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 30 September, quoting a US Embassy official in Bishkek.
The money will be spent on supporting democratic and market reforms, environmental projects, and strengthening security, including the purchase of Mi-8 helicopters for use by Kyrgyzstan's customs service, according to ITAR-TASS on 1st October.
Kyrgyz deputy premier may be president's successor
Deputy Prime Minister, Dzhoomart Otorbayev, may become a successor to President Askar Akayev, the Kyrgyz newspaper 'Argumenty i Fakty Kyrgyzstan' reported on 2nd October. The opposition are sure that Akayev will want to become the head of government if the country becomes a parliamentary republic, the paper says. They think that jailed opposition leader Feliks Kulov may be released and may join the government camp, it added.
The following is the text of a report entitled: "I would like to be the successor."
Why can't the authorities and the opposition agree with each other? Because both sides are afraid to leave their backs vulnerable. Paranoia is the most precise diagnosis of domestic policy. President Askar Akayev's public refusal to run for the elections in 2005 has caused an attack of persecution mania among the upper echelons.
The president's chair is to be exchanged for the prime minister's chair. The opponents are confident that even the transfer to a parliamentary republic will be unable to push aside the present ruling elite from the helm. Akayev, according to its version, aspires to the position of prime minister of the renewed country!
As is known, the president has only representative functions in a parliamentary republic. Power is actually concentrated in the hands of the head of the cabinet of ministers, who is elected by the majority of votes of a unicameral parliament. Akayev's main task, a number of opposition members believe, is to enter the new parliament as a deputy. The people's mandate will enable him to run for the position of prime minister.
The opposition do not doubt that victory is secured. It is no secret the supporters of the head of state always took most of the seats in parliament.
The distrust of the opponents hampers the authorities as well. The ruling elite are ready for a compromise with the opposition. But only in exchange for immunity. Guarantees of security are necessary. For it is unlikely to leave the political arena calmly and peacefully. The worst thing that may happen is a new division of property.
Will the head of the opposition Ar-Namys (Honour) party Gen Feliks Kulov work with [the deputy prime minister, Dzhoomart] Otorbayev? An amnesty could be a way out of the deadlock, moreover both political and economic. In this scenario Dzhoomart Otorbayev is said to be the most likely successor. He is scoring points relying on political youth and economic initiatives. This is a considerable trump in Kyrgyzstan, which is rapidly becoming poor. Otorbayev is convenient for the upper echelons, and also because he actually has a ready team.
Otorbayev's name is most often heard alongside the name of a deputy of the Legislative Assembly [lower house of parliament]. The people's elect, Marat Sultanov, is Otorbayev's closest comrade-in-arms in the My Country Party of Action. The lobbies affirm that Otorbayev sounds out his ideas and proposals precisely through this parliamentarian. It is not ruled out that if Otorbayev wins the forthcoming election, Sultanov will get the post of the head of the Cabinet of Ministers.
Otorbayev's advantage over other possible successors is his political liberalism. It seems to many that it is he who can conduct a political and economic amnesty in the country. One of the most serious opponents of the power - Kulov - may find himself free. The upper echelons will most likely make a truce with him rather than with the parliamentary group representing the southern regions.
This is demonstrated by the position the general is giving in. He is increasingly being attracted by a centrist line. The example once set by the leader of the opposition (Poor and Unprotected) People's Party, Melis Eshimkanov indicates the possibility of "iron Feliks" joining the government camp.
Apparently Kulov understands that the president's chair will not fall to his lot, at least in the next few years. There is the question: Will he agree to be employed with the present leader of the liberals?
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