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In Kyrgyzstan, the Utility of Revolution -- Again

Ted Trautman Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Less than a week after a small, provincial protest snowballed into a national revolution, Kyrgyzstan sits in a holding pattern. While opposition leaders now apparently occupy all the key offices in the capital, Bishkek, the country's incumbent president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has refused to step down, and is said to be gathering supporters in his native Jalal-abad in the south. After having spoken cordially with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as with Russian diplomats, Roza Otunbayeva, leader of the interim coalition, has assumed an air of legitimacy that will be hard for Bakiyev to displace. Nevertheless, though Bakiyev is unlikely to regain his former post, how he reacts to his present situation -- whether with violence, resignation or, less credibly, a bid for some form of power-sharing -- will set the tone for the nation as it prepares to rebuild its cracked institutions.

Ironically, Bakiyev leaves the White House, as Kyrgyzstan's presidential office is called, in the same way he arrived -- by means of a popular revolt. In the wake of the 2005 Tulip Revolution -- a nonviolent "color revolution" similar to those in Ukraine and Georgia -- Bakiyev was celebrated as the reformist antidote to the increasing corruption of his predecessor, Askar Akayev. Even Otunbayeva, who may now replace him, was a Bakiyev supporter in the early days of his presidency. ...

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