All Things Must Pass

By Andrew Slov

‘Kyrgyz question’ will become one of the central ones at December’s OSCE Summit in Astana?

Since in Central Asia there is a bunch of interests of practically all leading actors on world arena, the situation in Kyrgyzstan attracts intent attention of the international community. ‘Kyrgyz question’ will become one of the central ones at December’s OSCE Summit in Astana. Now former ‘oasis of democracy’ far from stability

Thus, Chinese authorities fear that instability at their western borders will influence negatively both China itself and other states of the Central Asia that can complicate Beijing’s efforts to use natural resources of the region.
> Map of Kyrgyzstan
Russian leaders are worried by destabilization as well. They are afraid that in such situations Russia and its regional security institutions turn out to be week. Inability of Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Organization of the Collective Security Treaty to help the Kyrgyz government in suppression June’s disturbances has caused syn in the other states of Central Asia. These countries began to doubt whether they can rely upon these institutions, and are the latter able to protect them from internal threats to security.

Moscow is also anxious that loss of control over Kyrgyz borders will bring to activization of drug trafficking and other kinds of transnational criminality in Central Asia, which can easily move to territory of the Russian Federation.

Kyrgyzstan causes troubles also among American authorities since recent incidents in Pakistan have demonstrated once again the obvious exposure of those routes of providing coalition in Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz’s international airport ‘Manas’ is playing an important role in this deal, being a transfer base for Alliance’s servicemen.

Meanwhile, in the result of a number of very significant events that took place in the country during the last half a year, situation there remains to be extremely complicated that can exert unfavorable influence upon a situation in the region in whole. Contradictoriness of interests of the aforementioned external powers does not promote the stabilization, too.
Internal political factor. The problem standing now in front of Kyrgyz politicians can be expressed like that: to provide stability of a state in the circumstances of deepening regional, clan and ethnic division of society.

In the absence in such society a balance of interests that is formed by its multiple groups, bound from within by firm family and clan relations, the groups that received less than they should, become an opposition to the ruling regime. And when their amount reaches a critical mass, the social explosion occurs.

This has happened in April, when in the result of mass disorders, which caused multiple human victims, Kyrgyzstan’s president Kurmanbek Bakiev was subverted, and a provisional government headed by former foreign minister Roza Otunbaeva came to power.

In the beginning of June the attacks of Kyrgyz’s on Uzbek minority took place in the south-western part of the country. According to the most conservative estimates, more than 400 people were killed then, and about half a million had to escape to the neighboring Uzbekistan.

In spite of that, on June 27 the authorities have held a constitutional referendum, in the result of which the presidential form of ruling in the country was replaced by parliamentary one. And on October 10 the parliamentary elections took place in Kyrgyzstan.

They took place in extremely complicated economic and political situation. On the eve the event the government has prepared a crisis management program, where it has confessed that replacement of rule and followed disturbances, chaos and redistribution of property have brought the state on verge of bankruptcy. Serious damage was inflicted to practically all spheres of national economy, a lot of businessmen have taken their business away from the country, and deficit of the state budget has reached 30%, or 619 million dollars.

Correspondingly, the greatest misgivings are caused by the expected drastic deterioration of a standard of living. The loss of income sources and roof over head, of access to fundamental social structural objects is worsening well-being of people in southern republics particularly sharply. The population feels critical need in food, medicines and other articles of prime necessity.

Army and militia are in aggrieving condition and require additional financing. The South of the country is practically not under control of central power, local princelings openly demonstrate their separatist moods.

The state has no money to cover expenses even till the end of the year: all term loans received after April are spent completely. If it will not obtain considerable additional means, hungry riots and mass disorders are expected.

International donors, including USA, Russia and a number of international organizations, declared their readiness to allocate necessary money. However they do not want to give them to non-legitimate authorities. In addition, what the practice of the last months has demonstrated, the essential part of funds for sure will be cleaned out by local officials.

At the same time the Service of National Security almost every day revealed conspiracies against authorities. Unsuccessful attempt of dethroning Roza Otunbaeva has happened. Later mass disturbances were prevented in Bishkek, where several youth and public structures of nationalistic sense under the guise of peace rallies planned to organize remonstrance protests and provocations against acting authorities.

Under these circumstances a success of attempt to transform the Parliament into a platform where different regional and clan groups will seek mutual agreement, looks deeply doubtful.

It is confirmed by the appreciable reduction of popularity of the provisional government, caused by loud corruption scandals, which began from the first days of the ‘revolutionaries’ ruling. However, certainly, most of all its positions have been shaken by June’s slaughter. Therewith the partners did not found common language.

Thus the coalition of opponents of the overthrown president Bakiev has collapsed. In spite of the fact that pro-government parties ‘Ata-Meken’ and Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan have passed into the Parliament, their total number of seats turned out to be less than that of the opposition parties – ‘Ata-Zhurt’ and ‘Ar-Namys’.

In such a condition it is difficult to expect the internal tensions will reduce: whatever alliance be formed, it becomes very unsteady, so the government will not be strong as well. And if coalition will not be created by three attempts, the Parliament will be dismissed.

Moreover, according to the last information, results of elections in general can be cancelled because of mass falsifications. In any event the Central Electoral Commission has decided to recalculate voices already.

Premises for discontent were created by its volitional decision to exclude one of the opposition parties from number of those, which passed into the Parliament. The party has declared that its victory has been stolen, and its supporters went to the streets.

From the opposite side there are requirements to cancel the victory of ‘Ata-Zhurt’, which is considered to be a structure of former comrades in arms of ex-president Bakiev.

The situation can become more complicated for another reason, too. The point is that in pre-election propaganda leaders of the opposition parties insisted upon unacceptability a parliamentary form of ruling for Kyrgyzstan and promised that after coming into power they will raise the question about returning the former system.

Apropos, the Kremlin behaved rather brazenly in this respect. In particular, Russian president repeatedly expressed the precaution that parliamentary democracy will become a catastrophe for Kyrgyzstan.

Thereby, new Constitution already in the nearest future will for sure become a subject of political battles. And there is no any confidence that this fight will not go beyond the scope of the parliamentary debate.
Clan factor. It is not to be forgotten that clans play exceptionally important role in the country. For example, party system is practically completely built on the well-established clan and generic system. Say, aforementioned ‘Ata-Zhurt’ is a party of southern clan.

As effect, today Kyrgyzstan is in fact divided into northern and southern parts. There is no common national party as well as united leader. This creates a threat to its integrity.
Nationalistic factor. In addition a considerable probability exists that ethnic tensions will develop into open conflict, which can get even more dangerous continuation. Revolutionary moods watched in Kyrgyzstan now are based on strong nationalistic emotions. During pre-election campaign some parties spread propaganda from positions of undisguised chauvinism. Last time splashes of nationalism happened even in Bishkek, which always was a sample of the internationalism and tolerance.

Uzbeks form 13% of the whole population of Kyrgyzstan. Moreover in southern regions their part was much higher. Some time ago they have begun to feel the double pressure – increasing estranging from their Kyrgyz neighbors and Uzbekistan doubts in their loyalty: Tashkent often accuses them in resetting radical Islamic fighters.

On the other hand, since Uzbeks represent the dominating ethnic group in the whole region there is a danger that ethnic conflict in the southern Kyrgyzstan can intensify the Uzbek nationalism. It in turn can bring to a revision of present state borders, installed still in the Soviet Union.

Terrorist factor. In the end of 1990-s the fighters of Islamic movement of Uzbekistan used the mountainous area in the south Kyrgyzstan, particularly Batken region, as sanctuary, from which they hit Uzbekistan.

‘Taliban’ increases its activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Together with obvious inability of Kyrgyz state to control its territory it can impel to actions Islamic fighters in Fergana valley.

Eventually this can bring to a situation when the whole region will become a new space for action of religious extremists. Besides that Kyrgyz-Uzbek and Kyrgyz-Tajik borders are almost not protected, so smuggling and drug trafficking are carried out through them without hindrance.
External factors. To all appearances, due to the circumstance that Kyrgyzstan is poor with natural resources and insulated geographically, a rivalry of external powers would not to take place here. However one did not manage to avoid it.

The main reason is in irrepressible desire of Russia to return the post-Soviet space under its control. It is known that Kremlin laid its hand to dethronement of Bakiev because the latter refused to fulfill its promise to close the American transport centre in Bishkek – airport ‘Manas’ – used for supplying NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan.

But it was not able to reach this goal with the provisional government as well. Probably, since the United States in July de bene esse have extended leasing of the base. Besides, in September Kyrgyzstan delegation headed by Roza Otunbaeva visited USA, where she met with Barack Obama on his initiative. The American President has supported both accepting new Constitution and holding parliamentary elections.

Nevertheless, no one can be sure that USA will manage to use the base for agreed period. Kyrgyz authorities repeatedly confirmed that its destiny will be defined by the government, which had to be formed by new Parliament. Taking into account that just in some days after the campaign the leaders of four parties, which have passed to the Parliament, arrived in Moscow ‘for consultations’, one can suppose that corresponding pressure was exerted on them.

Tashkent also takes a position that is far from being stabilizing. Not only Uzbekistan authorities, but also its whole political elite consider the Kyrgyz part of Fergana valley as Uzbek territory. Additionally, instability in nearby Kyrgyzstan is profitable for Islam Karimov since it makes impossible realizing there water projects, including construction with Russian support of Kambaratinskaya hydropower station.
Conclusion. Dilapidated country, paralyzed system of state management, hundreds of thousand people without roof over head, empty treasury, tangible threat of the civil war and anthropogenic catastrophes – this is a present state of Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz society is greatly divided into clans, socially disintegrated, not consolidated ideologically, and strongly depends on foreign, primarily Russian influence. One cannot find there moral authorities, who would be capable to unite the country, and politicians, who firstly seemed as being influential, quickly loss their charisma.

So even long term perspectives of the country seem not to be unfavorable.

This is the more sad that in the beginning of 1990-s Kyrgyzstan looked as a sample in conducting reforms and was considered by the West as ‘oasis of democracy’.

In this connection a question of principle arises: Are real democratic transformations as premises of persisting permanent stability possible in general in Central Asian states, let even in a distant future?

Regrettably, absence of at least one inspiring example does not allow to give the positive answer.