In Kyrgyzstan, the Utility of Revolution — Again

In Kyrgyzstan, the Utility of Revolution — Again

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.

It did not take long, however, for Bakiyev to veer toward autocracy. He has been quick to shut down media outlets critical of his policies, and by 2007, helped along by crooked polling and intimidation tactics, he had consolidated his power by ushering members of his newly founded Ak Zhol party into a parliamentary majority, thus weakening any legislative check on his authority. Since then, a number of his political opponents have been beaten by unidentified assailants, while others were found mysteriously killed.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.