LESSONS OF KYRGYZSTAN
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev)
The past events in Kyrgyzstan and possible future developments in that country and its neighbors pose tough questions, first, before the governments of Central Asian countries; secondly, before Russia and China that play a significant role in maintaining stability in the region; and finally, before the rest of the world. Tough questions demand tough, if not shocking answers that are not quite suited for the content of official statements. Someone will have to do it, though.
Question number one - about the existing political system of personal power characteristic of the entire Central Asian region, the system of utmost consolidation of power in the hands of one person. Rigid regimes, if they are made too rigid, have a tendency to collapse in an instant, though, with dire consequences for the whole country.
In particular, those who were called the Kyrgyz opposition yesterday and the government of the country today, represent the entire scope of the Kyrgyz political elite, which, step by step, was falling in opposition to Akayev despite its will. These people still have friends in high places in Moscow, Almaty and other capitals of the region. Those friends wished them victory and coming to power. However, direct support of the opposition seemed to be out of the question because all organizations in which Kyrgyzstan participated as a member, for instance, the CSTO or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, have mandatory provisions prohibiting interference in internal affairs of member countries.
The events in Kyrgyzstan clearly showed that scenarios of such interference have been nevertheless developed in the interests of Central Asian political elites. After all, the collapse of a regime threatens the stability of other regimes. No wonder all neighboring countries have closed their borders with Kyrgyzstan. It is necessary to find quickly acceptable forms of trustful dialogue on such unimaginable previously issues as step-by-step transition of power, because the political choice in Central Asian countries is not between "dictators" and "pro-western liberals." The choice is between adequate people and those who have nothing to do with civilized politics. Kirgyzstan is not alone in featuring leaders of traditional local clans who are capable of ordering several thousand thugs to plunder city stores and open jail doors, to a complete surprise of former opposition leaders, by the way.
However, due to traditional tensions among Central Asian political elites, such a dialogue seems to be impossible. It is a pity, because the alternative to this dialogue is completely unacceptable.
After all, there are world examples of a civilized transition of power and elite changes under rigid regimes, which are not necessarily dictatorships. Singapore or Malaysia, with their political systems copied from the British system currently allowing Tony Blair to stay at the reigns of power practically until he dies, can serve as such examples. I cannot predict Blair's future, but the Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, allegedly appointed for the rest of their lives, announced the names of their successors about a decade ago and after consequent victories of their parties ceded power to them. Later, China followed their example. It is worth mentioning, though, that such transitions were made during the periods of economic boom in these countries.
Which leads us to the second issue - the issue of control (or apparent control) over economy. Akayev's mistake was that he not only consolidated political power, but also established rigid control over the entire economy of a small country with a population of only 5 million people. According to expert of the Institute of CIS countries Andrei Rogozin, the economy of Kyrgyzstan consists of several enterprises that belong to relatives of the former president, international aid agencies controlled by the samepeople, and a few wholesale markets distributing goods manufactured in China around the rest of Central Asia. Directors of these markets were also controlled by Akayev. The remaining elements of economy included agricultural households and criminal structures in the south of the republic.
Those who assumed that all money flows in Kyrgyzstan were in reliable hands were surprised to find out that the criminal component of the economy played the key role in the current events. As we can see, the rigid character of the regime does not guarantee success in the economy sphere either.
The third issue deals with the fact that "rigid" Central Asian regimes in reality are not rigid enough about problems that should be their concern in the first place. The protection of life and individual property is the most essential value for human beings. Other human values are a step below on the pyramid of priorities. Akayev was probably too confident about the stability of the "democratic paradise" he had created. Kyrgyzstan is undoubtedly the most democratic Central Asian state. However, it enlisted only 20,000 people to serve in the military and law enforcement. It is absolutely not enough to stop a raging crowd, and any normal policemen would have been wise to flee in such a situation. The dispersal of a crowd with the least amount of casualties requires professional skills, unless one wants to use the methods of Napoleon who was the first to deploy artillery to scatter the throngs of protesters. Napoleon's guns shot at chest level using shrapnel. Akayev was offered military aid. He probably did the right thing to refuse it, because the situation in the neighboring countries is basically the same - they have small armies that are not trained in crowd dispersal. Besides, there is an issue of friendship between peoples, which after such an action would have suffered another blow.
This problem must be solved as soon as possible, too. The Organization of Collective Security Treaty is designed to repel a military invasion or a terrorist attack. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization serves the same purpose. How the authorities must act when terrorists or criminal clans push lumpen elements on the streets and hide in the raging crowd? The answer to this question does not exist. And it should.
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