Kyrgyzstan's Chronic Complications
On January 8, 2005, 50 people supporting the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) Movement gathered in front of the parliament building in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek and set up two tents. They were there to protest the disqualification of one of their leaders -- Roza Otunbayeva -- from participating as a candidate in the country's upcoming parliamentary elections on February 27.
Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan, had been disqualified by the Central Election Commission in accordance with a law that barred from candidacy anyone who had not lived in the country for the past five years. During that time, she had been Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to London and the United Nations deputy envoy to Georgia -- the kind of comfortable exile that the country's President Askar Akayev prepares for his political opponents. Like many members of Kyrgyzstan's political class who had fallen out of favor with Akayev, Otunbayeva had joined the constitutional opposition.
In their own variation on the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Otunbayeva's supporters wore yellow scarves and ribbons. By January 10, 150 people had joined the protest demanding that Otunbayeva be placed on the ballot. Showing unprecedented collaboration, five of the major electoral blocs composing Kyrgyzstan's opposition endorsed Ata-Jurt's demands.
The protestors disbanded on January 11, pending a vote in parliament on a measure to allow former diplomats to run in the election that later failed, but the symbolism had not been lost on Akayev, who has governed Kyrgyzstan since the country declared independence in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Would Kyrgyzstan be the next former Soviet republic to experience an onslaught of "people power" and have its own "Tulip Revolution," or would Akayev and his family, and the business and political "clan" that he had built, be able to retain power? The elections seemed to have taken on an unexpected import.
Although its allusions to international events were a new wrinkle, the January demonstration itself did not signal a sharp deviation from Kyrgyzstan's political pattern. Alone among the Central Asian states that succeeded the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan had adopted democratic reforms and had embraced privatization shortly after it declared independence. In the early years of his tenure, Akayev had appeared in the guise of a genuine reformer, presiding over the creation of a parliamentary system and the blossoming of independent civic groups, many of them funded from overseas. In the eyes of the West, Kyrgyzstan was at that time an incubator of Central Asian democracy, allowing a constitutional opposition to function and nurturing a civil society.
That Kyrgyzstan would be a model of political and economic liberalization was unrealistic from the outset. A landlocked country bordering China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, it had been closed off from the rest of the world during the Soviet period and had never modernized, preserving its traditional clan structure beneath the imported super-structure of Soviet institutions. Like all of the other new Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan was not ready for Western-style market democracy. Facing the same situation, its neighbors adopted authoritarian regimes that carried over the Soviet pattern dressed up in nationalist rhetoric, with cosmetic flourishes of liberalization masking punitive discipline. As Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov put it, the old Soviet house could not be dismantled while the new democratic home was under construction, and that would at best be a gradual process.
Akayev soon found that trying to govern with a fractious parliament was inconvenient and frustrating, so he began to fall back towards strong presidential rule, engineering referenda in 1996 and 2003 that expanded his constitutional powers. At the same time, he started to fall in line with neighboring leaders, harassing and sometimes jailing opposition figures, gaining dominance over the communications media, engaging in electoral manipulation and building an economic and political empire based on his family and spreading out in a network of regional and business connections -- a "clan" of cronies typical of post-Soviet systems.
By the time Otunbayeva's supporters commenced their Tulip Revolution, Kyrgyzstan was caught betwixt and between reform and reaction. Akayev had to live with the consequences of the reforms that he had made early on and could not crack down decisively on the opposition and civic organizations, and the opposition had to contend with the power base that Akayev had built up after he became disabused of parliamentarism. The February 27 elections for a new unicameral parliament became a test of power for all sides.
Two Women: The Locomotive and the Power Broker
Although with a population of five million people, Kyrgyzstan is the smallest Central Asian state, it is a land replete with complexity and contradiction that result primarily from its recent history of a phase of reform followed by a drift back to authoritarianism. Economic liberalization and privatization have given it a business class, yet half of the country's people live below the poverty line and Kyrgyzstan suffers a chronic brain drain of its educated youth who are products of a system of higher education that was set up by Akayev because there were scant employment opportunities for them at home.
Kyrgyzstan's political liberalization and its opening to the outside world have endowed it with a political class of what the Russians call a "modern intelligentsia," yet much of its population exists in pre-modern social networks based on clan and local leadership, and retains traditional attitudes and belief systems. Favored by international lenders because of its economic reforms, the country has run up a debt of more than 90 percent of its G.N.P. Predictably, the regime sees this mixed picture as evidence of progress under difficult circumstances and the opposition views it as evidence of failure. Neither side offers new policy directions, with the regime proposing more of the same and the opposition promising an end to corruption and cronyism.
In the run-up to the parliamentary elections, two women -- Otunbayeva and Bermet Akayeva, the president's daughter -- came to symbolize the division in Kyrgyzstan's political class and the contrasting perspectives on Akayev's accomplishments or the lack thereof. Dubbed respectively the "locomotive" of the opposition by Akayev and the "power broker" by the opposition, Otunbayeva and Akayeva are both strong personalities reflective of the cosmopolitanism of Kyrgyzstan's political class and its transcendence of the country's traditional patriarchal Sunni Muslim culture. Before Otunbayeva's exclusion from the ballot, they were set to contest the same university seat in the new parliament. Speaking freely about Kyrgyzstan's political situation, the two women presented cogent analyses of it revealing that nothing about the country is clear and decisive.
Whether Kyrgyzstan is progressing steadily upward toward democracy against the severe obstacle of an underdeveloped political system -- as Akayeva has it -- or the country has fallen into a "soft authoritarianism" that is hardening as it sinks -- as Otunbayeva puts it -- neither one denies that the country's political situation has been shaped decisively by Akayev. It is his legacy over which they contend and his political personality to which they relate and respond.
Like all the rulers of the new Central Asian states, each of whom was an official under the former Soviet regime and none of whom has surrendered power since independence, Akayev considers himself a father figure to his people. Unlike his counterparts, however, Akayev takes the role of the benevolent patriarch who applies discipline only insofar as it is absolutely necessary to serve the aim of setting the people free to run their own lives well. As the only reformer in the neighborhood, he does not take the demonizing and dismissive attitude towards opposition of his counterparts, but is, instead, paternalistic and patronizing, viewing opposition figures as spoiled children to be dealt with by mild, though firm, chastisement and witty condescension. Akayev continually insists upon his tolerance and patience, trying to show how the opposition defeats itself at every turn, even though it is given every opportunity to function, and then becomes petulant, which is not so bad in itself, but sometimes threatens to lead to rash behaviors that have to be curbed. The opposition remains within the family -- Akayev can be familiar with its members, as he was when he called Otunbayeva the "locomotive."
Far from believing that he has abandoned reform, Akayev holds that he is and has consistently been its champion. He has promised to step down from the presidency, as constitutionally required, after October presidential elections and can point to the new parliament, which -- Otunbayeva admits -- will have "about the same weight and same functions" as the parliament of the early reform era, which "confirmed the government and ambassadors ... actively controlled economic activities and had a lot of influence on the country's policy." For Akayev, the formal reversal of the constitutional referenda that gave Kyrgyzstan a presidential system is proof enough of his good intentions. The opposition should simply seize the democratic opportunity and forget about a Tulip Revolution, which could backfire and cause a "civil war," like the one that racked neighboring Tajikistan, releasing the genie of Islamism -- and no one, regime or "constructive" opposition, wants that.
At least as complex as Akayev, Otunbayeva owns that "everything is complicated" in Kyrgyzstan, including the president and her attitude towards him. She gives Akayev "credit for what he has done for the republic" and reminds that "he was truly democratic" during the first few years of his rule. Yet, she sees him now as self-deluded and out of touch with Kyrgyzstan's reality. In response to Akayev's patronizing wit, Otunbayeva marshals heavy sarcasm tinged with disillusionment:
Just as Akayev patronized her, Otunbayeva patronizes him -- still in the family, she is the voluntary exile who sees that the father has become a doddering viciously naive fool; he needs to be retired before he entirely botches the handiwork of his vital maturity.
As Otunbayeva sees it, far from progressing on the path of reform, Akayev is engaged in a desperate attempt to hold on to power or to pass it on to Akayeva and create a dynasty to preserve the corrupt clan that he has built. She does not believe that he intends to resign, pointing to a movement already afoot that she thinks he has engineered to hold a referendum to allow him to have another term or at least an extension of his present term that would run long enough for his daughter to be of age to become president. Meeting Akayev's warnings of civil war with her own grim scenario, Otunbayeva predicts that the president will declare a "state of emergency" to ensure his continued tenure.
Otunbayeva also believes that although the new parliament will have old powers formally restored, it has been structured to preserve control of the country by Akayev's family and clan, and to prevent the emergence of a genuine party system. By reducing the size of the legislature to 75 seats and requiring that members be elected by majorities in single-member districts, rather than proportionally according to party lists, the regime created a situation in which those seats were contested by more than 400 candidates, perpetuating and intensifying the dispersion and fragmentation that has been characteristic of Kyrgyzstan's politics since independence. The confusion of the parliamentary race opened the way, according to Otunbayeva, to manipulation by the country's media, most of which are controlled by the state or members of the president's immediate family and clan, and vote buying by candidates from the business community -- the "money bags," as she calls them -- connected to the clan. As if that was not enough, she points to the large number of candidates from Akayev's immediate and extended family, and the exclusion of diplomats like herself from candidacy.
For Otunbayeva, Akayev is cynically exploiting Kyrgyzstan's political underdevelopment. The only way for the country to democratize genuinely is to build and encourage a strong party system. Due to its lack of experience with democracy in the Soviet era and the regionalism and localism characteristic of a mountainous country, the "culture of party construction" in Kyrgyzstan is "absolutely new": "This is not a tradition for our people. Parties that have existed have never developed to a level where they would firmly stand on their feet."
In Otunbayeva's judgment, Akayev's strategy is to subvert the formation of a party system, which is the single essential requisite for Kyrgyzstan's democratization. Her efforts to form an opposition bloc that bore fruit in the January protests are Otunbayeva's response to what she sees as Akayev's attempt to smuggle authoritarianism under the cover of formal reform. Just as Akayev insists that he will step down, Otunbayeva renounces thoughts of a Tulip Revolution supported by Western powers. In a trenchant comment, she says that she prefers "change" to revolution, "even though we have at hand a pre-revolutionary situation, and moreover, in its classic version, when 'those at the top cannot do it, and those at the bottom do not want to do it.'"
Otunbayeva, who like Akayev was a top official in Kyrgyzstan during the Soviet era, scoffs at her rival Akayeva, who is 32 years old, for her lack of experience and considers her simply a tool of her father and her family's interests. Akayeva, naturally, views the matter differently, billing herself as representative of a new generation's commitment to taking up and accelerating the country's march toward democracy, and insisting that her choice to enter the political fray was her own.
Akayeva sees her father as a hero who took a country that was "falling apart" in 1991 -- "industry had stopped working, agriculture was being destroyed, business connections ruined" -- and restored international confidence and opened up Kyrgyzstan to the world. Confessing that she "did not believe that something could be achieved here," she lauds Akayev for his "state strategy" that succeeded, most importantly, in bringing "accord and social stability" to Kyrgyz society.
In stark contrast to Otunbayeva's worldly-wise irony, Akayeva's political personality is unremittingly upbeat and positive. She professes to be in a "ready-for-action mood: work, work and work again." She responds to attacks on the "clan" and its corruption by denying the charges and attributing them to the country's political immaturity: "We are still learning what democracy is and what the civilized rules of the game are." She takes the moral high road, refusing to "respond to one insult with another." Yet, she blames parliament for Akayev's turn to presidentialism: "The president has limited powers and as for what it is that prevents our parliament from working you should ask the MPs. It is to their benefit that the head of state is responsible for everything."
Despite their polar opposite readings of Kyrgyzstan's political situation, Otunbayeva and Akayeva share the same diagnosis of Kyrgyzstan's political underdevelopment. Akayeva notes that the country's political parties are "leader-oriented" and that none of them is "based on a strong ideological foundation." In order to rectify that situation, she became one of the founders of the Alga, Kyrgyzstan! (Go, Kyrgyzstan!) Party, which supports the regime and is the first party in the country with a national sweep transcending regions.
Akayeva says that the aim of Alga, Kyrgyzstan! is to represent "various regional, professional and ethnic groups" and to preserve the country's "unity and stability." Although she denies that she is the motive force behind Alga, Kyrgyzstan!, outside observers consider her to be its "power broker." She sees her role as carrying forward the torch of reform to a higher level -- her party is a "new structure," essential to realize the democratic promise of the new parliament. Just as Otunbayeva mocks the claims of regime supporters that her apartment is papered with "wall-to-wall dollars," courtesy of Washington, Akayeva dismisses the charge that clan money energizes her party -- even though her husband, a Kazakh businessman, owns a television channel and the largest circulation newspaper in the country.
The driving forces behind, respectively, the first effort to unify the dispersed opposition and the first attempt to create a national party, Otunbayeva and Akayeva are remarkable women who represent two distinct visions of Kyrgyzstan's future that are united by a common analysis. As Otunbayeva says, "everything is complicated" in Kyrgyzstan, a mix of reform and reaction, of high-minded principle and mean threats and pandering. Nothing is conclusive about Kyrgyzstan.
The Parliamentary Election Cycle: Chronic Deferral
Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary election cycle confirmed Otunbayeva's diagnosis of the country's political situation: those at the top cannot do it, and those at the bottom do not want to do it. Whether that diagnosis describes a "pre-revolutionary situation" -- as Otunbayeva claims to believe -- is open to question. Each of five possible scenarios for Kyrgyzstan's future has a probability coefficient attached to it that cannot be calculated: the country might simply remain in deadlock, stasis and irresolute suspension, stumbling along in fits and starts; the pro-Akayev forces might solidify the dominance of their clan; those same forces might vault the country into modernization; the opposition might consummate a Tulip Revolution; or Kyrgyzstan might suffer a period of instability and, perhaps, violent conflict. The first and second possibilities -- stasis and clan dominance -- seem to be the most probable outcomes at present, but that is just a guess.
From the run-up to the first round of elections on February 27 to the second round run-offs for undecided seats on March 13, Kyrgyzstan's mixed political situation was starkly manifest. Symbolic of Kyrgyzstan's complexities was the report on the first round by monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.), who criticized the regime for excluding and withdrawing the registrations of candidates, permitting vote buying, interfering with the operations of opposition media, and scaring the public with talk of civil war; yet, they praised the regime for creating a better system of representation, allowing a competitive contest among candidates, and providing free time for all candidates on the mass media. On balance, the O.S.C.E. was displeased, yet on February 28, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (P.A.C.E.) announced that it would recognize Kyrgyzstan's new parliament as legitimate and begin "full cooperation" with it.
Despite the opposition's hopes for a Tulip Revolution and the regime's fear of one, there was no sign of a wave of people power building in the country, nor was there a condition of confident stability. Instead, following Kyrgyzstan's traditional pattern, there were outbreaks of direct action on a local level throughout the cycle, particularly in the country's south, which is relatively impoverished and is home to large concentrations of the country's Uzbek minority. Before the first round, the protests, which included demonstrations and roadblocks, were focused on the exclusion and delisting of candidates, and, after the first round, they were directed at reversing the results of the polls, on the grounds that they were rigged in various ways.
The regime did not try to suppress resistance with force, but let the protests go on, even when, as in the Jalal-Abad district, they took the form of occupying government facilities. The regime's forbearance showed that it judged that it could not safely act to suppress opposition. Memories of violent communal conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks on the eve of independence in 1990 are still fresh, as are the lessons of the violent suppression of a peaceful protest over the arrest of a politician in 2002, in which six people were killed and the regime was temporarily destabilized. The regime chose simply to plod ahead with the elections, postponing several contests and proceeding with its plans to populate the new parliament with pro-Akayev forces through exploiting its control of the media, restricting candidacies and opening up the money bags.
In a sign of its apprehensions -- for Otunbayeva, "panic" -- the regime tried to protect its control over information by taking U.S.-funded Radio Liberty's Kyrgyz-language station off the air and cutting power to the U.S.-funded printing plant (an arm of the State Department-supported Freedom House) that produces Kyrgyzstan's opposition newspapers. Both actions were justified by the regime on the grounds of legal technicalities and were reversed after a clamor of protests from Washington. Akayev also threatened to sue the opposition newspaper M.S.N. for defamation after it published articles detailing the business interests of Akayev's family.
With the regime's tactics on obvious display, the opposition still was not able to mobilize effectively. Given the many multi-candidate races, only 32 of the 75 seats were decided in the first round, and only two of those went to opposition parties, the rest going to pro-government parties (Alga, Kyrgyzstan! carried eight seats outright and gained pluralities in 23) and independents, mostly businessmen. Akayeva received double the votes of her closest competitor, but failed to win a majority and had to wait for the second round to secure her victory. Otunbayeva kept up a steady drumfire of criticism, warning that Kyrgyzstan was in "danger" and noting that there were "gross irregularities throughout the country," including vote buying and politically motivated decisions on candidate registration by the courts. By the time that the run-off took place, 90 candidates either had their registrations revoked or refused, or had withdrawn from the races.
In a deep irony, the O.S.C.E. praised the regime for allowing greater Uzbek representation in parliament, even though many of the protests in the south concerned the rigging of elections to put just those candidates into office over their ethnic Kyrgyz rivals. Between the first round and the run-off, the opposition made another stride toward unification by forming a coalition led by former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev to coordinate and arrange further protests and calling for Akayev to resign and for presidential elections to be moved up to July. The O.S.C.E. meanwhile criticized all sides for fostering a climate of distrust of politicians among the public.
The results of the run-off were no more favorable to the opposition than were those of the first round. With 71 of the seats decided, the opposition could only claim six, as compared with the 20 that they held in the old parliament, which had 105 members. Observers in Bishkek calculated that Akayev could probably rely initially on the support of about 50 of the deputies, giving him more than the two-thirds majority that he would need to effect constitutional changes; yet, they added that the large number of winners who had run as independents could lead to defections if they did not feel that they were rewarded sufficiently. In a major blow to the opposition, Bakiyev -- who plans to run for the presidency in the October election -- was roundly defeated in his bid for a seat, putting into doubt the scenario of a unified move against Akayev's clan.
The second round did not lay to rest the anti-regime protests, which continued in Kyrgyzstan's south and escalated to holding regional officials hostage. Opposition politicians claimed that the run-offs had been plagued with the same irregularities as the first round had been, only more egregious. Deputy leader of the Ar-Namys (Dignity) Party Emil Aliyev said: "This wasn't an election; it was vote buying -- we in the opposition don't recognize the results. We will work with the population to encourage society to recognize the elections as invalid and to secure urgent presidential elections." The O.S.C.E. monitors echoed their report on the first round, citing the same violations, and the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek followed suit. The regime and monitors from the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.) expressed their satisfaction with the fairness of the elections.
Observers confirmed that voters in the first round and the run-off were not enthusiastic. Turnout was around 60 percent in both rounds, signifying neither disaffection with nor support for the system on the whole. Kyrgyzstan's political situation remained as it was before the elections -- inconclusive, though perhaps more tense and, at least temporarily, more unstable.
With no decisive conclusion, the parliamentary elections simply set the stage for the next act in Kyrgyzstan's political drama -- the October presidential election. Will Akayev move to have another term? Will the opposition unite around a single candidate? Will protests become chronic and blossom into widespread civil disorder? Again, everything in Kyrgyzstan is complicated and uncertain.
The most cogent analysis of the parliamentary elections was given by Russian political scientist Alexander Kynev, quoted in EurasiaNet, who notes that the major threat to Akayev's plans to keep control for his family and clan comes from possible defections of power figures from his own administration and support base. Kynev comments tellingly that the political aspirations of Akayev's family drive "towards the opposition many of those who had previously been absolutely loyal to Akayev's clan. Powerful people with plentiful resources may, in the near future, feel compelled to enter into an alliance with the opposition. If this occurs, the opposition's opportunities will grow."
Kyrgyzstan's Geostrategic Significance: Tilting Eastward
Although Kyrgyzstan lacks the oil and gas reserves of its neighbors -- particularly, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan -- it has geostrategic importance in the new great game for spheres of influence in Central Asia that pits Moscow and Beijing against Washington and Brussels.
In its bid to restore its influence in the successor states of the Soviet Union -- its "near abroad" -- Moscow has leagued with Beijing in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O.), attempting to draw Central Asian states into a firm regional security network bolstered by economic cooperation. In turn, Washington has tried to gain a foothold in the region, in looser collaboration with Europe, by offering military and economic aid. Regional proximity, economic dependency and historical ties give Moscow an edge over Washington, but the latter is reluctant to refrain from taking advantage of opportunities to expand its influence.
Akayev, until recently, had responded to efforts by contending great powers to court Kyrgyzstan by pursuing a "balanced and multidirectional" foreign policy that included allowing both Moscow and Washington to have military bases in the country. He accepted aid from all sides and has tried to avoid having to choose among them. In 2004, however, Akayev began to come under pressure from the two leading interested powers and started to tilt toward Moscow.
Moscow's interest is clear; it wants Washington out of Central Asia and has pressured Bishkek to end the U.S. military presence in Kyrgyzstan. Sensing its unfavorable position, Washington -- through its ambassador to the country Stephen Young -- urged the Kyrgyz regime to hold free and fair parliamentary elections, stating that a "peaceful transfer of power" would encourage the same scenario in neighboring states. Young's statement, made in November 2004, was met with a negative response by the regime and fed Akayev's fears that Washington was preparing to engineer a people-power revolution along the lines of Georgia's.
As the parliamentary elections approached, Akayev made it plain that the balance had tilted in favor of Moscow. Declaring that "Russia has been, is now, and will be our chief strategic ally and partner," he noted that the U.S. air base exists only to support the "antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan" and will be closed down as soon as "stability is achieved in Afghanistan"; whereas the Russian base is meant to "provide security throughout the Central Asian region" and "will suffice for the security of the region." Akayev added that he still remains committed to a "both...and" rather than an "either...or" formula in his dealings with Moscow and Washington, yet was clear that he had told Washington that "if you want to have good relations with Kyrgyzstan, you must understand and accept that Kyrgyzstan has always had and will have good relations with Russia."
For Washington, Kyrgyzstan is less important for itself than as a possible wedge to pry open its energy rich neighbors. As Akayev attempts to secure the perpetuation of the political and economic dominance of his clan over the country, that prospect loses credibility, driving Washington to pin its hopes on an opposition victory, which in turn drives Akayev into Moscow's arms.
During the run-up to the first round of the parliamentary elections, Akayev visited Moscow and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, commenting that Kyrgyzstan needed Russia's "moral support." Meanwhile, he criticized the opposition for seeking support from Washington and accused it of "encouraging" Washington to "quarrel with Russia" over the fate of Kyrgyzstan: "Often I have the impression that our opposition tries to bring the United States and Russia against each other over Kyrgyzstan. They are unlikely to manage it." Otunbayeva, who paid her own visit to the Kremlin, denied Akayev's charges, saying that the opposition shared the regime's judgment of the centrality of Moscow-Bishkek relations and understood that the only road to the West open to Kyrgyzstan runs through Russia.
On the eve of the first round of the elections, Ambassador Young spoke out again, commenting that Washington had been providing aid to Bishkek for many years and now wanted to see "the real results" of its assistance. His remarks aroused predictable criticism from the regime, which called on him to be more "reserved" in his statements. After the O.S.C.E. monitors' report on the first round was released, Washington backed off a bit from its assertive stance, echoing the O.S.C.E.'s mixed verdict and adding that "with a view towards the October 2005 presidential elections, we urge Kyrgyzstan to take immediate steps to correct the deficiencies in advance of the March 13 run-offs."
As Bishkek and Washington sparred over the elections, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov announced on February 15 that Bishkek had rejected a request from Washington to deploy AWACS surveillance planes at its base in the country: "It was considered inexpedient to deploy AWACS on the republic's territory." Young quickly responded that Washington had never made such a request, after which Moscow weighed in through Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, who said that "AWACS planes have nothing to do with the fight against terrorism on Afghan territory."
At the same time, Aitmatov stressed that Bishkek would step up security cooperation with the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (C.S.T.O.) and the S.C.O., "primarily with Russia by implementing agreements under the C.S.T.O. and strengthening the contractual and legal base aimed at further strengthening the collective security system in Central Asia."
The future of Kyrgyzstan as a geostrategic prize now depends on how the country's domestic politics unfold. If the condition of stasis continues or Akayev's clan solidifies its power, Bishkek will move into the folds of the Moscow-Beijing axis, diminishing even further Washington's influence and dimming its hopes for a pro-Western transformation in Central Asia. If somehow the opposition is able to mobilize around a presidential candidate and struggle its way to victory in October -- an unlikely prospect, given the results of the parliamentary elections -- Washington will gain leverage.
Everything is complicated in Kyrgyzstan, but tensions are sharpening and there are indications of polarization. Although it is too early to predict with confidence what the emerging balance of power will be, it is possible to outline the tendencies in process. The Akayev clan will depend increasingly on support from Moscow and will be vulnerable to the defection of power figures edged out by the immediate "family." Moscow looks to have won the current hand of the game, but there will be more to come.
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