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Kyrgyzstan Politics

Kyrgyzstan is a parliamentary republic that has overthrown its president twice: once in 2005 and again in 2010. Mismanagement at the national-level furthers corruption by organized crime, which is perceived as receiving kickbacks from the lack of clear policy on appropriate resource management. Local, formal, government officials and informal, local leaders, like aksakals (“white beards” in Kyrgyz language) also known as senior community elders, leaders of women’s councils, youth leaders and, in some cases, religious officials are trusted leaders. They were cited as those who tried to solve local problems, but lack the power and resources for sustainable change. Lack of oversight, transparency and accountability of state institutions at the local level has led to a lack of trust in formal state institutions by the general population. The majority know that formal state institutions need to exist but have little to no trust in them.

The incompetence at the local level is linked to two issues: corruption and nepotism which “qualifies” individuals for positions in formal institutions and national-level instability within formal state institutions. In turn, people’s reliance on informal structures (civil society organizations, teachers, village councils, women’s councils, youth sports programs, etc.) for protection, service provision and advocacy has lead to a rise in tension between Kyrgyzstan’s formal and informal institutions.

Since independence from the Soviet Union, the Kyrgyz Republic has struggled to find a strong government to lead the country through political transitions in a non-violent manner. Corruption is endemic, and people have lost faith in its governing structures. State institutions have been unable to provide justice and security for all or to adopt a comprehensive strategy to resolve conflict drivers associated with interethnic discord.

Crime is pervasive in Kyrgyzstan and is often linked to people in power. In some circles, and to some extent, violence can be bought, as evidenced in its sometimes highly organized nature in Osh and other parts of the country. The quest for power through criminal, commercial and political means - with a grey area in between - is in turn based on a clan structure which continues to play an important part in social relationships.

A major divide runs along the north-south axis. The two regions have historically been distinct and tensions between them are an important underlying factor in political power struggles. Significant regional political power centers continue to exist, with a pronounced split between northern and southern provinces. In many cases, political loyalties still are defined by clan rather than party. Since its independence, Kyrgyzstan has been noteworthy for the relative openness of its political discourse and vibrancy of its civil society. Although still the leader in the region, Kyrgyzstan remains a fledgling democracy. It boasts a political opposition, an independent press that occasionally criticizes the government, and credible freedoms of religion, speech and assembly.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the regime of the thrice-elected President Oskar Akayev increasingly bypassed democratic processes, despite increasing protests. In the early 2000s, Akayev’s informal power base among the business elite and younger politicians eroded as he increasingly favored the clans of the north (his region) over those of the south. In early 2005, energized by manifestly unfair parliamentary elections, opposition demonstrations in the cities brought about Akayev’s resignation in what became known as the Tulip Revolution. His successor, former prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev, pledged in 2005 to restore some powers to the legislative branch. Upon election he retained most of the acting cabinet that he had selected on Akayev’s resignation.

On July 23, 2009 President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overwhelmingly reelected with 76% of the vote, although the OSCE noted numerous voting irregularities. In October 2009, Daniyar Usenov was nominated as Prime Minister. Protests in April 2010 in the town of Talas and in Bishkek ousted Bakiyev and his government from office.

On 7 April, amidst violent clashes in the north of the country, the government of former President Bakiyev was overthrown and a new interim government installed. Between 11-14 June an explosion of violence, destruction and looting in southern Kyrgyzstan killed hundreds of people and displaced many thousands, in particular in and around the city of Osh. The events in 2010 led to an increase in instability, both at the political level and among the population; this has been expressed in significant inter-ethnic tension.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2021 12:52:46 ZULU