Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 315 - (29/03/07)
Two years on from the revolution
Street protests, demonstrations and calls for reform led to the ouster of
President Askar Akayev and carried Kurmanbek Bakiyev to power on March 24th,
2005. But two years later, the political infighting continues, with more
opposition protests set to begin on April 9th. Central Asia's most democratic
state may also be its most fragile, Afghanistan of course excepted, although
none of its states are truly stable.
The similarities with changes of government in Georgia and Ukraine proved
superficial long ago, leaving behind a host of questions about the nature of
Kyrgyz democracy, if indeed it can be called that. The Tulip Revolution is
nothing like the Rose Revolution, let alone the Orange Revolution. But then
Central Asia is very different from Europe. Kyrgyzstan is, moreover, a very poor
country. Only Tajikistan and Afghanistan are poorer in Central Asia. But then
both had devastating civil wars.
Assuming the demonstrations that ousted Akayev were a true expression of popular
will, the outcome is hardly inspiring. Bakiyev's government has done little to
meet its promises of reform, whether combating corruption, promoting a freer
press, or rebalancing the division of governmental powers.
Meanwhile, the economy is stagnant, limping along at 2.7 per cent growth in
2006, far below the government's projection of an 8 per cent rise. The biggest
economic story over the past year concerned the debate over Kyrgyzstan's plans
to ease its debt burden by joining the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
Initiative (HIPC). Ultimately, the Bakiyev administration backed away from
joining HIPC, amid strong public opposition.
Crime and murders on the rise
Security has also declined: the looting that accompanied Akayev's departure
was followed by a year in which three members of parliament were killed. Several
prominent businessmen, most with alleged criminal connections, have also been
gunned down, and lawmakers recently approved legislation granting themselves the
right to bear weapons in self-defence.
Akayev was at least able to keep a lid on organized crime, but under Bakiyev it
seems to be open season.
Public agitation too
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the street protests that brought
down Akayev have been revived on a regular basis. Kyrgyzstan's supposedly
spontaneous demonstrations always included some element of planning, but now
political leaders have it down to a science: erecting tents, carting in
supporters, and supplying them with food, water, and, some say, cash and vodka
The political opposition led the latest round of demonstrations in November
2006, securing a new, compromise constitution that reduced presidential
authority. But Bakiyev counterattacked at the very end of the year, slipping in
adjustments that shifted power back in his direction.
Opposition augmented by ex-premier
In the process, Feliks Kulov, Bakiyev's influential yet independent ally in
the 2005 elections, lost the premier's seat. The president replaced him with a
staunch supporter, Azim Isabekov, eliminating a potential enemy within, but
creating one without.
Kulov's move into the opposition has galvanized the flagging anti-government
forces, greatly increasing the odds that this spring will bring further
The prolonged wrangling - and the apparent indifference of the public - begs the
question of whether either side can claim a popular mandate. Bakiyev has indeed
failed to deliver on most of his reform promises, and the opposition is right to
feel cheated at seeing its revolutionary hopes dashed, or perhaps themselves to
get their hands on the levers of power - and its rewards!.
But protests can only go so far in prompting change. As their frequency
increases, the benefits of calling the authorities to account start to pale in
comparison to the drawbacks in terms of stability.
There are ways out of the coming crisis without taking to the streets. In a
position paper published last year, local analyst Sheradil Baktygulov argued
that Kyrgyzstan must do a better job of incorporating the opposition into
government deliberations. A draft law on the subject is a start, he says, but it
must be adjusted to include more concrete mechanisms for taking the opinions of
the opposition into account. Otherwise, any routine disagreement will quickly
rise to the level of a crisis, as it so often does now.
Bakiyev's recent conciliatory stance in meetings with opposition leaders is a
positive sign, but only if it marks the beginning of an ongoing consultative
Baktygulov also calls for greater attention to the development of political
parties. Kyrgyzstan may have taken the first step in this direction as well:
under the new constitution, half of the members of parliament will be elected by
party affiliation, and the winning party will have a chance to name the prime
minister. This may help develop a more stable system of party politics in
Kyrgyzstan by encouraging clan-based regional interest groups to unite under a
In a more ominous sign, the constitution itself has once more become a bone of
contention. Despite the fact that the country has had three different
constitutions within the past year, the opposition is calling for fresh
constitutional changes. As beneficial as the opposition's proposals may be, the
precedent is damaging; an endless cycle of cynical constitutional reform looms,
in which political actors manipulate state institutions for short-term
advantage. Central Asia has seen far too much of that already.
Despite what some observers may think, though, Kyrgyzstan is no basket case.
The struggle for power there is more transparent and competitive than anywhere
else in the region. There exists a solid foundation of civil liberties -
including the freedom of assembly and expression - that Kyrgyz citizens have
already come to take for granted.
But the line between taking liberties for granted and just plain taking
liberties is blurred in Kyrgyzstan. Putting up a wall between the two should be
the next task for the country's democracy-builders.
The following is an informed account of the situation:-
Friday, March 23, 2007, EURASIA INSIGHT
Political discontent simmers in the Ferghana valley
Political discontent is brewing throughout the Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek
portions of the Ferghana Valley, as regional elites in all three states are
unhappy with the behaviour of central officials. Discontent is perhaps most
acute in Southern Kyrgyzstan. Members of the region's political elite are
publicly complaining that the long-running political confrontation in Bishkek,
pitting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev against members of the Kyrgyz parliament, is
threatening stability in the regions.
In comments published in early February by the 24.kg news agency, Jantoro
Satybaldiev, the Osh region's popular governor, stated that "central
authorities have lost touch with the problems of the provinces." Incessant
political manoeuvring in Bishkek is starting to have serious economic
consequences for southern Kyrgyzstan, Satybaldiev added. He cited the delay in
the approval of a 2007 state budget, saying such inaction had deprived funds for
social services, and thus had fuelled popular anger. "The parliament is too
politicised - it assumes many responsibilities that do not belong to it,"
said Satybaldiev, who also serves as the special presidential representative for
the region. Satybaldiev called on the central government to grant regional
authorities an expanded economic decision-making role. However, the Bakiyev
administration appears unlikely to heed the request. Officials in Bishkek are
concerned that such action could possibly promote the fragmentation of the
country. They also are concerned that the president's opponents in parliament
might try to establish control over regional political machines, and use them to
launch a fresh political assault on the executive branch.
The president's position is somewhat awkward given that he himself is a
southerner, and his rise to the presidency was seen by many residents in the
region as a long-overdue corrective to the economic and political imbalances
between the northern and southern sections of the country. Rather than
addressing local grievances, authorities in Bishkek would rather discipline
regional governors, some political analysts believe. On February 5, a group of
protesters in Osh demanded Satybaldiev's resignation, accusing him of
collaboration with Kyrgyzstan's disgraced former president, Askar Akayev. They
also claimed that the Osh governor was "betraying the ideals" of
Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution of 2005.
Observers suggest that members of presidential administration may have played a
role in organizing the protest. In Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the source of
local dissatisfaction is linked to a more common source - the heavy-handed
behaviour of central officials. Following his re-election in late 2006, Tajik
President Imomali Rahmonov carried out a far-reaching government reshuffle that
included the removal of Kasim Kasymov as governor of the Sughd Region, which
encompasses the Tajik portion of the Ferghana Valley. Local observers say the
aim of the reshuffle was to strengthen Rahmonov's influence over the region's
political apparatus. Tajik political analyst Daler Gufronov, writing for the
Asia Inform news agency, characterized Kasymov's ouster as "thunder on a
clear day." According to a report distributed by the Regnum news agency,
Rahmonov offered the prime minister's portfolio to Kasymov, who "for
unknown reasons" turned the offer down. The rebuff reportedly angered
Rahmonov, and the ousted governor ended up with only a minor post within the
ruling People's Democratic Party. Having been in charge of Sughd Province for
seven years, Kasymov had forged powerful patronage networks. Thus, only weeks
after Kasymov's departure from power, Rahmonov began a wide-ranging "cadre
rotation" in municipal executive bodies throughout the region. In the Uzbek
part of the valley, long-standing resentment toward the centre continues to
grow. Human rights organizations documented that discontent with the central
government's economic policies was a major factor in stoking the Andijan events
Tashkent has done little to address those complaints since then. Instead,
President Islam Karimov's administration appears preoccupied with maintaining
tight political control over the region, a desire underscored by the political
purges carried out in 2006 in both Andijan and Ferghana provinces.
An entrepreneur who spoke to EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity complained
that the purges have stoked corruption and exacerbated local economic
difficulties. Prior to the political changes, local entrepreneurs were already
buckling under what some described as confiscatory tax policies. Starting in
early 2006, Uzbek authorities imposed a monthly fee that is not connected to
sales revenue, requiring all entrepreneurs to pay the state the equivalent of
7.5 minimum monthly wages, or roughly US$85. For the average small businessman,
who generates about US$200 per month in income, the tax rate comes out to over
40 per cent, and serves as a disincentive to stay in business. Concurrently with
imposition of the flat tax, the government expanded efforts to collect excise
taxes on some imported goods. The heightened collection effort has hit Ferghana
Valley residents especially hard, given that many local entrepreneurs rely on
cross-border trade. Inter-state issues are also playing a role in the Ferghana
Valley's rising discontent. In September 2006, for example, Karimov and Bakiyev
signed an agreement easing visa requirements for Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens.
However, almost six months after the signing of the agreement, authorities have
not fully implemented the visa-free travel regime.
Bishkek, Tehran to expand cooperation
Iranian Ambassador to Bishkek, Mohammad-Reza Sabouri, met Kyrgyz Foreign
Minister, Erdnan Karabayev, on March 17th to discuss cooperation between the two
countries in cultural, political, parliamentary and economic fields and regional
and international issues, Interfax News Agency reported.
Karabayev pointed to the establishment of bilateral friendly ties after
Kyrgyzstan's independence in 1991 and said Iran-Kyrgyz relations have undergone
major development in all fields over the past 15 years. The Kyrgyz foreign
minister said that officials of both sides are willing to further bolster their
mutual ties in various domains. Meanwhile, he appreciated Iran's assistance to
his country on different occasions.
Calls for more foreign investment in exploration
Kyrgyzstan is hoping to receive 1.8 billion som or more than 47 million Euro in
foreign investment for geological exploration this year, 10.6 per cent more than
in 2006, the state secretary of the country's Geology and Mineral Resources
Agency, Duishenbek Kamchibekov, said, Interfax News Agency reported on March 16.
He said the agency has drafted a plan of action to ensure rapid economic growth
The plan includes measures to develop the mining sector and expand exploration
by raising foreign investment. Foreign direct investment in exploration has been
growing steadily, increasing to 1.628 billion som (38.1016 som) last year from
1.407 billion som in 2005 and 1.200 billion som in 2004, he said. There are
plans to draw up technical specifications for the development of the Trudovoye (Lisisty
and Tashkoro blocks) and Uchkoshkon tin deposits, the Togolok gold deposit, and
the Andash and Bozymchak gold and copper deposits.
In addition, there are plans to stabilise gold production at the Kumtor deposit
and ensure annual growth in gold output by Centerra Gold Inc. The plan calls for
mining 14.25 tonnes or 10.717 billion som of gold at Kumtor this year. An
additional 500 jobs are expected to be created at the deposit. The plan also
calls for Kyrgyzaltyn to invest 25 million som of its own money and four million
Euro of foreign investment to boost gold production. This company is expected to
mine 1,565 kg of gold this year, compared to 1, 278.3 kg in 2006. Work is also
supposed to accelerate at the Jerooy deposit, investment in which is targeted at
about 45 million Euro.
There are plans to complete the feasibility study for the project, and build the
infrastructure for the mine - a plant, tailings dump and auxiliary facilities.
The project is expected to create 213 new jobs. The company also plans to
accelerate the development of the Taldybulak Levoberezhny deposit, which is
supposed to receive 390 million som of investment this year. There are plans to
complete design work and start the main construction work on the mine, creating
91 new jobs. At the Trudovoye (Lisisty and Tashkoro blocks) tin deposit, there
are plans to complete all design work and begin construction on infrastructure.
Sarydzhaz Mineral Mining Company plans to spend 10 million Euro on this project.
The plan also calls for measures to stabilize raw material supplies and
production processes at the Kadamzhay Antimony Works and increase production
this year to 4,000 tonnes of antimony worth 760 million som. Investment is
targeted at 58.5 million som, and 139 new jobs are expected to be created.
Another important project, Kamchibekov said, is reviving core production at the
Karabalta Mining Works with 136.5 million som of direct investment from
UralPlatina Holding. Production at Karabalta, not including uranium products, is
targeted at 98.3 million som this year. With secondary processing of uranium
waste, production of uranium products is forecast at 100-120 tonnes, or 0.8
billion-1.2 billion som. Forty jobs are to be created here.