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Homepage > Publication Type > Media Releases > Kyrgyzstan: A Hollow Regime Collapses

Kyrgyzstan: A Hollow Regime Collapses

Bishkek/Brussels  |   27 Apr 2010

The collapse of the Kyrgyz regime is a case study of the risks facing authoritarianism in Central Asia. What happened in Kyrgyzstan could happen in most of its neighbouring countries. And the consequences could indeed be much worse.

Kyrgyzstan: A Hollow Regime Collapses , the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, explains and analyses the events of the past five years, in an effort to provide context and background to the recent uprising. President Bakiyev came to power in the so-called Tulip Revolution of March 2005, which ousted President Askar Akayev, accused of nepotism, corruption and growing authoritarianism. Once in office, Bakiyev quickly abandoned most semblances of democracy. He now leaves behind a bankrupt state hollowed out by corruption and crime.

“Assuming the provisional government moves fast to assert its authority, the risks of serious instability are relatively low”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Crisis Group’s Central Asia Project Director. “But the new dispensation needs to start communicating with its people – telling them about the serious problems the country faces in the short and medium term, and what they plan to do to start addressing them.”

Though its declared aim is to stabilise the country in preparation for parliamentary and presidential elections six months from now, the provisional government has to do much more. It must prepare people for the multiple crises that could flare up at any time due to the neglect and pillaging of the country's infrastructure. It has to take urgent measures to ensure that organised crime or the narcotics trade do not again infiltrate political life. It needs to begin talking to devout Muslims and will have to move rapidly to reassure the public that it is willing and able to work for the country's good, not just the personal enrichment of government leaders.

The speed with which the Bakiyev administration collapsed is also a salutary reminder of the risks of overemphasising Western security concerns in framing policy towards the region. The superficial stability of authoritarianism is attractive to Western leaders who are looking for a safe environment to pursue commercial or security interests, such as the current effort to prosecute the war in Afghanistan. But the deep-seated, yet overlooked, instabilities of authoritarian regimes remove all predictability.

By blocking all social safety valves – the media, public dissent, political discourse and the right to legal redress – the Bakiyev regime created a semblance of calm. But it was unable to control the underground currents of anger at the regime’s rapacity. The closure of all other channels of change made a violent response just about the only option for an angry population.

“The fundamental lesson that can be drawn from the events of April 2010 is clear: the authoritarian model of government has not worked in Kyrgyzstan, and is unlikely to work in the rest of Central Asia”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Authoritarian and unresponsive regimes are not only embarrassing allies, but unreliable ones”.


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