A new future for ALL in Kyrgyzstan?

In October 2010, the first democratic election in Central Asia was held in Kyrgyzstan. The country became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Though democracy was envisioned, the country was scarred with corruption, bribery and violence under the presidencies of Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, with economic strife and ethnic conflict coming to a head.

However, commentators around the world have marked the October election to be in great contrast to previous elections.  Said to be free and pluralistic, the Kyrgyz people actively demonstrated the want as well as the need for a parliamentary democracy, through their participation of the October election. Unlike the previous years, it exhibits the newly elected parliament to form a government that represents the will of the people, all of the people and a new constitution that allows a parliamentary system that would allow power to be decentralised and shared among different political parties.

The months in the lead up to the election exposed the ethnic conflict in the country and furthermore the failure to uphold accountability for what can only be described as mass genocide of the Uzbeks by the Kyrgyz, in the southern city of Osh. Official figures are that over 400 were killed in the week long conflict in June, the Uzbeks being persecuted in vast numbers. One reported story in The Guardian is of Kyrgyz men that broke into the home of Zarifa, an ethnic Uzbek, and after asking her a couple of questions and ‘‘her confirming she was an ethnic Uzbek, they stripped her, raped her and cut off her fingers. After that they killed her and her small son, throwing their bodies into the street. They then moved on to the next house.’’ The UN humanitarian office spokeswoman, Elisabeth Byrs, said an estimated 300,000 people had been driven from their homes but remained inside Kyrgyzstan, and there were about 100,000 refugees in neighbouring Uzbekistan.

Ethnic Uzbeks flee southern Kyrgyzstan after attacks by Kyrgyz mobs in the southern city of Osh. Photograph: D Dalton Bennett/AP www.theguardian.co.uk

Indeed, after the turbulent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks earlier this year, it looks as though a calmer era is to prevail. Just four months after the horrific violence in June, parliamentary democracy attained under relative peace has become apparent, no doubt largely due to the hard work of President Roza Otunbayeva. With the turnout of voters overall at 57%, a great proportion of voters were from the south in Osh itself, an estimated 66% voted in this city alone.

As of December 15th a new coalition government  was formed of three of the five parties that secured the majority of seats in parliament in the October election.  The coalition consists of the Ata Zhurt party (28 seats), the Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (26 seats) and Respublika (23 seats).  However, remnants of the authoritarian rule are clearly visible with the addition of the Ata Zhurt party, who gained the most seats. The very pro nationalist party, consisting of many former members of the old regime, who supported the previously ousted President Bakiyev, still claim that no other ethnic group in Kyrgyzstan could expect to be deemed equal to the Kyrgyz.  Following the violence in June, the Kyrgyz were seen to be barbaric in their treatment of the Uzbeks and so the Ata Zhurt undoubtedly gave a morale boost, for its supporters. The Social Democrats, contrastingly, pose a new take on politics as they worked hard to reform the constitution, stripping the president of powers and favouring a parliamentary democracy.  Almazbek Atambayev, leader of the Social Democrats, has been proposed as prime minister, who now has greater powers than the President.

Leader of the Social Democrats, Almazbek Atambayev, is expected to become prime minister. www.bbc.co.uk

Though the election and consequent coalition most certainly highlighted the ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan, there is now hope of change. The new constitution, through allowing power to be decentralised and shared among different political parties, could certainly pave the way for change in the country for more government transparency, equality and ethnic representation throughout. The next few months are critical in seeing how the political change is reflected in society and for the hopes of many to be actualised.

Images from The Guardian and BBC

Comments

Syeda Salmah

excellent article that has well documented the events so far and offers real insight into the situation!! I am interested in the idea that many of us capitalists seem to believe that democracy is supposed to be THE first most positive step to changing a country- is that really the case or is democracy just a lesser eveil than the rest? Sometimes i feel that the underlying factor to succes is economic well being- you can have a dictatorship, a communist organisation, a secret service or a democracy but none of them will thrive unless the economic situation has been handled and supported. I find too often that developed countries feel as though it is ok to impose the democratic system and encourage others to follow in its footsteps but so very few of them are willing to support financially and trade successfully. Doesn't matter if you can vote or not- hwat matters is the ability to live day to day in a stable environment.

One could argue that democratic systems are the foundations for a positive economic growth within a country but i feel that is irrelevant!

Let me know what you guys think!!

20 December 2010 delete
Nadia Hussain

I understand what you mean, often democracy is closely linked with some kind of utopian existence. You just have to look at the all the 'great' early 20th century revolutions to see that bread and meat were often the sparks of mass discontent and therefore mass uprising- obviously enforced with political ideology and other factors...

In whatever form, stability is key in Kyrgyzstan, and a phenomenon it desperately seeks. The new coalition government has made promises to fulfil this, however, as we have seen from our own coalition government right here in the 'modern' 'democracy' of the UK, the promises of politicians have little value and can easily be reneged upon.

20 December 2010 delete
Mabrur Ahmed

At the end of the day one thing that we must not be too naive to conceptualise is that politicians around the globe all pander to the demography they are seeking election from. To renege after election is an almost given. Occasionally, very occasionally, there are the one or two politicians who actually do what they are supposed to do - discuss the policies that will better the society they are representing - in modern times, the likes of FakhrUddin in Bangladesh, Otunbayeva in the Kyrgyz Republic, even to an extent Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe.

I do hope that this coalition is useful for the Kygryz people and whilst I am under no doubt that this ally to the West will succeed relatively, the underlying Ethnic issues will take a lot more than simply a positive election or a new coalition to fix - it requires real leadership and real revolutionism - hopefully something that the coalition can supply, but in reality no coalition really has a strong leadership - its set up does not allow it.

11 January 2011 delete