Recent political protests in Kyrgyzstan signal the possibility of deeper trouble ahead of presidential elections in November. For the first time in the country’s pro-independence history, there is real competition for leadership in Central Asia’s only semi-functioning democracy.
Ruling Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) 17 May selected PM Sooronbai Jeenbekov as its candidate for presidential election; Jeenbekov, who is from Jalalabad province, will compete against four other candidates. President Atambaev 29 May announced election to be held 15 Oct, one month earlier than expected. Previously unknown group Imam Shamil 25 April claimed responsibility for 3 April metro bomb in St. Petersburg; said suicide bomber Akbarjon Djalilov acted on instructions from al-Qaeda leader in act of revenge for Russian operations in Syria, Chechnya and Libya. Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) investigating links between Djalilov and ethnic Uzbek from Osh Sirojiddin Mukhtarov, aka Abu Saloh. Atambaev mid-month attended China’s high-level Belt and Road forum aimed at developing trade routes, specifically Silk Road Economic Belt initiative seeking to improve transport and energy infrastructure along two broad transport corridors in Central Asia.
The rapid rise of alternative interpretations of Islam, often at odds with the state’s concept of traditional identity, are being fueled in part by endemic corruption and perceptions of incompetency. The government must end economic marginalisation and improve inadequate institutions, or risk not just threats to internal security but also the resurfacing of ethnic tensions.
Kyrgyzstan’s relative stability belies the country’s brittle Central Asian neighbourhood, simmering ethnic tensions, religious extremism and political frustration. Russia, the West and China share interests here, creating a unique opportunity to work together for Kyrgyzstan’s democratic development during and after the upcoming 4 October parliamentary elections.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
China’s influence is growing rapidly in Central Asia at a time when the region is looking increasingly unstable.
Kyrgyzstan’s disregard for its Uzbek community is pushing the ethnic minority to a breaking point.
Without prompt, genuine and exhaustive measures to address the damage done by the pogroms, Kyrgyzstan risks another round of terrible violence.
Crisis Group’s Publications Officer Julie David de Lossy, formerly a freelance photographer of Central Asia, travels to Kyrgyzstan to take a look through her camera lens at the context of our conflict-prevention work.