Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 288 - (01/01/05)
Backing the wrong horse
President Askar Akayev likes to think that his country is the most democratic in
Central Asia. Well, it did not pass the test over Ukraine. Afghanistan of all
places is probably that now.
All the authoritarian ex-Soviet Central Asian states, including Kyrgyzstan, have
joined Russia in its otherwise lonely offer of congratulations to Moscow-backed
Viktor Yanukovich on winning Ukraine's disputed presidential election.
Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akayev said in a letter to the Russia-leaning
establishment candidate, Victor Yanukovich, that he hoped for "stronger
ties between the two states" under the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president.
"I am deeply convinced that your activity in this high post will
consolidate Ukraine's independence and raise its authority in the international
arena, increase the prosperity and welfare of the Ukrainian nation," an
official quoted Uzbek President Islam Karimov as saying, in a letter to
The United States and the EU were swift to condemn widespread fraud in November
21st's election and tens of thousands of supporters of West-leaning opposition
leader Viktor Yushchenko took to the streets in Ukraine claiming their candidate
was cheated out of victory. The election was then annulled by the Ukrainian
Since independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, none of the five
Central Asian states has held an election judged by the West as fully democratic
and their veteran presidents have all extended their terms through
constitutional amendments or plebiscites.
Russia's close ally Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had also congratulated
Yanukovich. A spokesman for Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said a letter of
congratulations would likely be sent. Curiously, Turkmenistan's reclusive
President Saparmurat Niyazov, who enjoys a bizarre personality cult, has yet to
offer his comments. Ukraine is a major importer of Turkmen natural gas.
Electoral season opens
In fact Kyrgyzstan is entering its own electoral season. In profoundly corrupt
settings, leaders go to extraordinary lengths to cling to power for fear of
prosecution by their successors. President Askar Akayev has pledged not to seek
a new term, becoming the first Central Asian leader to make such a promise.
Kyrgyzstan, which is slated to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in
2005, could be a test case in every respect. With elections in other republics
due early in 2005, 43 candidates from the opposition Popular Movement of
Kyrgyzstan will be participating in the elections scheduled for February 27,
2005, said party leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev. "We decided to nominate 43
candidates for 43 out of the 75 polling districts. At the same time, we will
support candidates from movements holding similar positions," he said.
He believed that the elections will be held in two rounds. "Judging by a
great number of candidates, one can assume that there will be two rounds,"
Bakiyev said. He did not rule out "a situation when none of the candidates
wins, in which case parliament can extend the powers of the president for
another two years to enable the government to prepare a new leader." Other
political organisations are likely to join the Popular Movement, Bakiyev added.
The Popular Movement comprises nine opposition parties, including the Communist
Party, Republican Party, Asaba (Banner) Party, Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan,
Freedom Party, and Free Kyrgyzstan Party, and totals 93,500 members.
Concern of ethnic minorities
Concern about Kyrgyzstan's civil rights climate is prompting the country's
sizeable Uzbek community to throw its weight behind the government as election
season approaches. The show of support comes even as many Kyrgyz express
frustration that their own interests have gone unnoticed by Akayev's
Comprising roughly 13 per cent of Kyrgyzstan's overall population of 5 million,
Uzbeks are the country's largest ethnic minority group. The Russians are the
second, but are more confident of their position with the weight of Russia
behind them, on which Kyrgyzstan is dependent for energy and many other things.
Akayev is a decided Russophile, having spent 17 years in Leningrad in the days
of the USSR.
Uzbek election preferences are sure to be driven by memories of the bloody 1990
rioting involving Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern Osh region. Akayev's
domestic policies, casting Kyrgyzstan as a "common house," have helped
restore a sense of order, and have reassured many Uzbeks that they are welcome
Now, with Akayev's pending retirement in 2005, many Uzbeks are approaching the
parliamentary and presidential votes in 2005 with apprehension. They are keen to
see Akayev's "common house" course continued, but wonder what will
happen when Akayev leaves the political stage.
Akayev has publicly stated that he will not run again, but the issue of the
incumbent's candidacy remains unsettled. The constitution appears to bar Akayev
from seeking another term. However, some local political analysts believe the
Basic Law could end up being reinterpreted to enable Akayev to seek re-election.
If that occurs, Uzbeks could be counted to be strong Akayev backers. "Akayev
should stay in power because he will ensure stability and peace," Gafur
Soliev, an Uzbek retiree, told EurasiaNet. "Others cannot do it."
Regardless of Akayev's final decision on the 2005 presidential election, Uzbeks
are likely to look to the incumbent president for guidance on how to vote in the
parliamentary poll, scheduled to occur in February. In the event that Akayev
indeed retires, Uzbeks also will be eager to see if he endorses a particular
At present, Uzbeks are wary of the growing influence of Kyrgyz nationalists in
politics. Nationalist sentiment is arising out of the frustration generated by
the country's stagnant economic conditions, some observers say. Among the more
outspoken adherents are leading members of the opposition, including
parliamentary deputy Adahan Madumarov and Omurbek Tekebayev, a former
presidential candidate and leader of the opposition group Ata Meken
(Fatherland). Both men have expressed distrust of Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek population
This association has prompted many Uzbeks to steer clear of the country's
opposition movement, according to one journalist based in Osh, a city with a
large Uzbek population. "The reason why Uzbeks play no role in Kyrgyzstan's
opposition movement can be explained by the fact that the opposition movement is
dominated by Kyrgyz nationalists," said the journalist, who requested
anonymity. "The rhetoric of these politicians frightens many Uzbeks."
Uncertainty over the future has already prompted several Uzbek community leaders
to join the pro-presidential movement "Alga, Kyrgyzstan!" (Forward,
Kyrgyzstan!), the journalist added. Their action is meant not only to protect
the status of Uzbeks, but, also, to protect what whatever economic gains that
have been made by the Uzbek community during Akayev's tenure, the journalist
As many Uzbek entrepreneurs see it, political change could pose a threat to
their economic livelihood. "If new people come to power, they will start
extorting money from us, and [the cycle of] corruption will start all over
again," explained Abdurashit, an Osh restaurant owner who gave only his
For all their outward show of support for Akayev, Uzbek voters are not
necessarily content with the status quo. A 2003 poll conducted by the Osh-based
Uzbek Cultural Center found that more than 60 percent of 1,436 ethnic Uzbek
respondents thought that the government did not do enough for them. Over 79
percent called for the formation of an Uzbek political party, and 78 percent
believed that the Uzbek language should be given the status of an official state
An additional source of discontent is the fact that Uzbeks are underrepresented
in regional and local administrations. "It's time to overcome stereotypes
and improve work" in personnel policy, commented Bakhtyar Fattahov, a
prominent Uzbek leader, in an interview with the government newspaper Slovo
Kyrgyzstana. "In short, the problem exists, and it should not be
But for now, chances for a campaign to address these issues are slim. Top Kyrgyz
officials are reluctant to tackle such a sensitive issue in an election year. In
addition, there is broad concern among Kyrgyz that granting more rights to
Uzbeks would lead to additional demands, including long-suppressed claims for
autonomy. Such a cycle could ultimately give rise to a secessionist movement,
the Kyrgyz thinking goes.
Despite their numbers, Uzbeks have yet to voice a defining set of policy goals,
or mobilize around a single Uzbek leader. Ordinary Uzbeks often see the
community's leaders as having been co-opted by the Kyrgyz government, said the
journalist from Osh, and varying interests hamper the search for replacements.
Geographical differences also pose an obstacle: Uzbeks from Jalal-Abad Province
tend to be more assertive on civil rights issues than are Uzbeks from the Osh,
site of the 1990 riots.
Kyrgyzstan's trade gap widens 27.5% in Q1-Q3
Kyrgyzstan's trade deficit widened by 27.5 per cent to 143.8m Euro in the
January-September 2004 period, according to a report from the country's national
statistics committee, Interfax News Agency reported.
Foreign Trade turnover grew 38.2 per cent to 1.19bn Euro. Imports increased 37
per cent to €666.7m and exports rose 39.7 per cent to €522.9m. Exports minus
the Kumtor gold mine grew 44.7 per cent to €298.4m.
Trade with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was 49.8 per cent of
overall foreign trade in the nine months, against 46.9 per cent in
January-September 2003. Trade with the rest of the world was 50.2 per cent
against 53.1 per cent in the first nine months of 2003.
The foreign trade deficit was €214m with CIS countries in the first nine
months of 2004, against €151.2m in January-September 2003. There was a foreign
trade surplus with the rest of the world of €70.2m in the period, against
€38.4m in January-September 2003. Trade turnover with CIS countries grew 46.8
per cent on an annual basis to €592.4m in January-September 2004, including
exports of €189.2m and imports of €403.2m.