Road maps in Kyrgyzstan the US can elect not to copy

lizkat

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Things are not going swimmingly in the Central Asian, former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.,


Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a Russian military airbase and serves as a hub for trade with neighbouring China, has been gripped by unrest since Oct. 4, the date of a contested election that was subsequently annulled.

Lawmakers voted in the only candidate for premier, 51-year-old Sadyr Zhaparov, who some opposition factions accused of being in league with Jeenbekov, [who] ...ordered troops to deploy and re-establish order amid flare-ups of violence... military checkpoints were put up overnight around the capital Bishkek... personnel carriers were spotted in the city. He fired top security council officials who had either supported his opponents or failed to intervene when the opposition said on Tuesday it was seizing power..

Before parliament voted on Zhaparov’s candidacy, speaker Myktybek Abdyldayev resigned, meaning Zhaparov would also assume presidential powers if Jeenbekov resigned.

Zhaparov’s supporters had clashed on Friday with followers of a few other parties which nominated their own candidate for PM, Omurbek Babanov. Kyrgyzstan’s opposition is divided between 11 parties that represent clan interests. The country has seen two presidents toppled by popular revolts since 2005.

These guys with their clannish obsessions and penchant for locking each other up over corruption charges keep forgetting that their neighbor Russia has a guy in charge who is focused only on its own national interests including not having chaotic situations prevail in the neighborhood,
 

Scepticalscribe

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Things are not going swimmingly in the Central Asian, former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.,








These guys with their clannish obsessions and penchant for locking each other up over corruption charges keep forgetting that their neighbor Russia has a guy in charge who is focused only on its own national interests including not having chaotic situations prevail in the neighborhood,

Actually, in Kyrgyzstan, the issue is not "clannish obsessions", - I don't see that as an accurate characterisation of the country's political complexion at all - from what I could gather when I was there, rather, it is more a case of seizing and exercising pure power, and possibly channelling - or expressing - a take on the idea of Kyrgyz national identity in order to mobilise Kyrgyz voters who might be sympathetic to such a message; I've done (observed) a number of elections in that country (after each of two previous revolutions).

Yes, there are strong "families", - based on powerful individuals - but these are not clans, still less separate ethnicities, and the political parties are often platforms for their interests. Moreover, in Kyrgyzstan, unlike almost every other central Asian country, the elections that take place are genuine contests.

That doesn't mean they meet western democratic standards, and nor are they necessarily completely clean, but neither are they completely "fixed", or "rigged", and, it must be said that opposition strong-men - or the parties that serve as vehicles for their platforms - poll strongly in their respective political strong-holds.

And - with the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges (which I have flown over, a number of times), - the scenery is stunning, absolutely spectacular, and it has pioneered a sort of eco-tourism in the mountains - in the country, plus the fact that it was the second poorest of the former republics of the old USSR, - it lacks oil - this is not a country that would be physically easy to subdue.

Granted, it tends to be mindful of Russian interests, and will not antagonise Russia, but that is intelligent reading of local circumstances, dictated by geography and history; Russia does not rule it, and has little say in its internal governance; yes, there is a Russian base, an air base, in the country, but there used to be a US air base there, too.

Paradoxically, social class divisions and gender divisions were the least pronounced in all of the central Asia (post-Soviet) region; the election results more or less reflected the electoral preferences of the electorate; their revolutions were unusually not-bloodthirsty, or unusually un-bloodthirsty - by the standards of the region; the press was - possibly - the least repressed (I didn't say "freest") in the region.

The main ethnic divide is between Kyrgyz and Uzbek; a roughly 80%-20% breakdown, with the Uzbeks (a lot poorer, less educated, far less developed, much more oppressive of women, far more religious - the Kyrgyz were secular Muslims for the most part) more prevalent in the south of the country where they comprised around 40% of the population. A marked socio-economic north south division (the north of the country was a lot more developed and better off) over lay and reinforced - but is not identical to - the already existing ethnic divide.

I met Atambayev briefly in 2011 - at the time, he was Prime Minister and was running for President, an election which he won. (I had met all of the presidential candidates).

He struck me as a calm, collected, subtle, able, highly intelligent, politically sophisticated and a sane and tolerant man, someone ran a terrific campaign where he managed to obtain the votes of the 'northern establishment', - which was where his base lay - and many of those who were alienated in the south (principally Uzbeks) - circumventing entirely the urban strongholds of the well organised and resourced ardently nationalist candidates (the second and third cities - were both Kyrgyz nationalist strongholds - I was based in the third city, those cities voted, by choice, for their respective strongmen, the candidates who came second and third respectively) and appealing to those who felt alienated and disenfranchised by a robustly Kyrgyz nationalist rhetoric.

He managed to appeal to (I attended a meeting which he addressed in an Uzbek village which impressed me enormously re tone and content and demeanour) to the religious Uzbeks, even though he quietly made clear to the assembled audience that he was "not a good Muslim" explaining, both seated, and later, standing on a small, elevated platform in the rain, and subsequently taking questions which had not been vetted in advance, "I don't always remember to pray five times a day; I haven't yet been to Mecca", but stressing that as they were Uzbeks who were from Kyrgyzstan, they, too were considered Kyrgyz, that Kyrgyz identity wasn't just confined to those who spoke the language, that it included them all.

I must look further into this particular situation, as I am not as up to date - other, more flamboyant interruptions have served to distract me - on the latest political unrest.
 
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Arkitect

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These guys with their clannish obsessions and penchant for locking each other up over corruption charges keep forgetting that their neighbor Russia has a guy in charge who is focused only on its own national interests including not having chaotic situations prevail in the neighborhood,
And wouldn't he just love to put them back inside the "protection" of the Russian Empire…
Tsar Vlad is not known for his lack of imperial ambition.
 

Scepticalscribe

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And wouldn't he just love to put them back inside the "protection" of the Russian Empire…
Tsar Vlad is not known for his lack of imperial ambition.

No, but I think that he has more than enough on his hands ensuring that Russia remains intact.

None of the former states of the old USSR wish to rejoin the Imperium (not even Belarus), and two of them (Armenia and Azerbaijan) are currently in a state of armed conflict with one another, while another (Ukraine) is locked in an internal "frozen or congealed" conflict, one unlikely to come to an end anytime soon.

I think that Mr Putin hankers after the world of the late 19th century, a world of "Great Powers", where Russian influence in the areas it deems of interest to itself (and its immediate needs) will neither be disputed nor contested, above all, by other Great (if Shrinking) Powers outside the Imperium.
 

Scepticalscribe

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@lizkat: I've edited the title of the thread so that it is clear from the title that the main topic under discussion - for anyone who comes across the thread - is Kyrgyzstan; hope that is okay with you.
 
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Scepticalscribe

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The president of Kyrgyzstan, Mr Jeenbekov, resigned earlier today, saying that he had no desire to go down in history as a man who brought bloodshed to his country.

This is not your typical central Asian country; actually, I must admit that I liked them a lot, when I worked there.
 
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lizkat

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@lizkat: I've edited the title of the thread two that it is clear from the title that the main topic under discussion - for anyone who canes on the thread - is Kyrgyzstan; hope that is way with you.

More than fine...

The president of Kyrgyzstan, Mr Jeenbekov, resigned earlier today.

This is not your typical central Asian country; actually, I must admit that I liked them a lot, when I worked there.

It sounds like Kyrgyzstan could be in for a period of uncertainty. This is not the first time their elections have been thrown over, or rather that an elected government, rigged in or otherwise, had been dispatched by a group having gathered enough popular support.

I confess meanwhile --and as a sidebar interest as far as this thread goes, so forgive the brief digression in this post-- to having got immersed anew in a book I had cited recently in some other thread or forum. It's Colin Woodard's American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America-- one that has all to do with something perhaps not about clannishness so much as regional interests.

Those regional concerns, back in the day of more interesting (i.e. less binary) politicking in the USA, used to show up sometimes in the days before primary elections, so in the so called "smoke and mirrors" presidential and VP selection efforts that did take place right offstage from the national convention events.

Being cultural --in various senses, e.g., economic, religious, ethnic heritage-- some of those lingering American concerns that do tend to be regional have been overshadowed by the clash of the "culture wars" defined mostly by media as binary ones, between right and left, Republicans v Democrats.

But not so very long ago, "farmers" were about wheat or rice or corn... and "ranchers" were "cattlemen" or "sheepmen" ... so for instance part of a Colorado state delegation to a national convention would be on the other side of a room from their frenemies on the matter of grazing rights, meanwhile having to make up their mind just how "the great state of Colorado" would cast its votes for President in a given year... and on the side they'd definitely be muttering they'd get even next time out on the range... (see Sheep Wars in Wikipedia).

For all the hassles we have now with a more or less binary approach to legislation, I still remember some of those floor fights at conventions, and I sometimes thank God that major Congressional caucuses haven't quite got down to that level of granularity. It's bad enough the two parties keep primarying each other to their respective extremes.

I do still kinda like New York State's way of allowing fusion tickets, where you can vote on a minor party's line for an office in the general election, where that party supports one of the major parties' nominees. It's a way of letting minor parties live to fight another day at the polling place while also letting a voter decide "win now, sort the details later".

Anyway all that was what ran through my head when I was reading that piece about Kyrgyzstan, particularly these lines:

Kyrgyzstan’s opposition is divided between 11 parties that represent clan interests. The country has seen two presidents toppled by popular revolts since 2005.


I'm all for expression of opinion and interest but in the end a country that even aspires to be "democratic" or mindful of the people must agree to a rule of law. In my mind the danger of regional or clan interests becoming formalized in a legislative body is that such arrangements may point to or encourage a popular inability to agree upon nominations of an executive branch leader, or to accept the winner of an election meant to select (or re-elect) one. That leaves the door open for a whole new level of meddling.

Throw in criminal contempt for rule of law and the power to attract popular support, et voila one may arrive at what is going on at the moment in Kyrgyzstan. One hopes it will sort out and not leave the people worse off than they were under Jeenbekov.
 

Scepticalscribe

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I want to return to this tomorrow, but seriously, @lizkat - I've been there, and this is not a country dominated by, or determined by, "clan interests" (and I've worked in countries - Afghanistan, Somalia, Georgia - where "clan" interests do exist, so I know the difference).

Likewise, the "popular revolts" are unusually restrained by regional and international standards. The revolution, or revolt, of 2005 (and yes, I observed the subsequent election the same year in the country) led to - quite literally - a handful of deaths, which appalled some of the Kyrgyz with whom I spoke. Most school killings in the US far exceed this number. This is not a culture which glories in bloodshed or delights in violent death.

The revolution, or revolt, of 2010 was nastier, yes, and there was really nasty ethnic stuff in the south (Uzbeks burnt out), the second and third cities, (Osh and Jalalabad respectively) bastions of Kyrgyz nationalism, where an Uzbek university in Jalalabad (which I saw when I spent several months there in the subsequent election in 2011) was burned down and destroyed.

However, this is classic nationalism, and ethnic differences (exploited and fomented in an irresponsible manner), but not "clan" stuff.

Moreover, (Kyrgyz) women attend school, university, and work, and wear what they wish; until Covid, Kyrgyz women didn't wear face coverings. Wealth - and social class - inequalities are a lot less marked than elsewhere; shops - even in the smallest & most remote villages - are surprisingly well stocked, and all sell local cognac, several varieties of vodka, and different brands of beer.

I honestly think that some of the western media are allowing their 'clichéd' understanding of the wider region to influence how they interpret Kyrgyzstan, and what they write is not what I recognise.

The country does have elections, - real ones, something the country takes pride in; I'm not saying they are flawless, or free of fraud - they are not - but they are genuine electoral contests, something unprecedented in the wider region of post-Soviet central Asia.

They do bring about changes of government; those ousted are not killed, and this is not a country where someone can rule for twenty or thirty years without a disgruntled electorate or population signalling that they are not especially happy. The media is about as free as you will find in the region, and report what is happening more or less accurately, (while employing far fewer Uzbeks than they ought, and - at that - hardly any in key positions). Every village - irrespective of how remote, and I have been in remote parts of Kyrgyzstan - has shops with an astonishingly wide selection of vodkas and beers. This is an unusual Muslim state.

Honestly, I don't think that Kyrgyzstan is in "for a period of uncertainty"; they will resolve this, find a way for the succession to take place in a weird hybrid of politics, street politics, elections and revolts, but one where an accommodation of sorts will be arrived at.

It is an unusually tolerant and sophisticated political culture; they are not fanatics, and wear any imposed ideology lightly. That included both Islam and Communism. Historically, they were nomads, and used to having to adapt to imposed circumstances (imposed by stronger outsiders) and to negotiating outcomes of some benefit to all sides.

One of my interlocutors remarked that "if it is not portable, if we cannot carry it in a saddlebag, - and that means possessions, or ideologies, - we are not much interested in it, and it has little value for us'."

They may well hold another election to clarify - or confirm - what has been taking place, i.e. to facilitate, or confirm, or give legal effect to, a change of office holder, or government.
 
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lizkat

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@Scepticalscribe -- Of course I must defer to your direct knowledge, and have always appreciated your willingness to share your experiences in other cultures with us.

Can't figure out then what is all this with the criminal interests muscling into the scene in Kyrgyzstan in this time of resisting what does seem to have been a rigged election. I grant you that that sounds not generally "clannish" so much as merely opportunistic.. which in turn is a bit like provocateurs trying to turn a peaceful protest into something more to their own liking, be that just anarchy or the chance of gaining power under the radar and turning up as a ward boss on the morrow.

I still wonder more than a bit about inherent stability of a government whose legislative body appears to have come to formalize clan interests in winning of certain legislative seats. I suppose that's no different to many countries that end up with multiparty seats in their parliament, and the ensuing need to form coalitions that can agree on enough policy matters to drive actual governance.

Clan allegiances do sometimes run deeper than "policy" and votes on lawmaking. Compromise and clannishness are often very nearly mutually exclusive, save for temporary alliances against external threat. It's certainly been a problem for Kurds over the years since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, in the south of Turkey, northwestern Iran, north of Iraq, and northern Syria. In each of those areas, desire for a Kurdistan runs strong but in the meantime their quarrels with each other even within any one of those four countries end up being their own downfall in the battles they try to win versus the state governments.

I won't assert that the Kyrgyz population takes on the clannishness of the Kurds. But their legislative allocations don't entirely discount that either. Still, it's unclear to me how that figures one way or another into the clearly nationalist fervor now having swept up those in Kyrgyzstan who rightfully questioned the most recent election's results.
 
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