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.
Several parties named their candidates for Nov presidential election including former PM Temir Sariev (Ak Shumkar party), former PM Omurbek Babanov (Republika – Ata-Jurt) and Bakyt Torobaev (Onuguu-Progress). Opposition Ata-Meken party leader Omurbek Tekebayev arrested 26 Feb upon arrival from Vienna, court 27 Feb ordered two-month custody while fraud and corruption investigation conducted; Ata-Meken supporters protested in Bishkek. President Atambayev met with European Council President Donald Tusk and EU foreign policy chief Mogherini in Brussels 17 Feb. Atambayev called on EU to invest in Kyrgyzstan’s democracy arguing it is under pressure. Russian President Putin visited Bishkek 28 Feb to discuss ties.
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.