Foreign Policy Blogs

Tulips and Mud in Kyrgyzstan, part 2 of 2

Constitutional Crisis to Prime Minister Crisis, continued. . . .

Mr. KulovThough the first two assassinations of legislators were alarming, the third execution, of Akmatbaev, has been the most troublesome for Kyrgyzstan's domestic order.  During the incident, after Mr. Akmatbaev had been killed, Prime Minister Kulov came to the prison and negotiated the release of hostages and an end to the incident.  Whatever concessions he made to quell the uprising did not satisfy Mr. Akmatbaev's brother, allegedly a well-established crime lord.  Even the act of negotiation itself could disrupt the balance of power between two rival prison syndicates.  Once again, demonstrators came out, although one could not be sure they were not paid to be there, and the rhetoric became nasty.

Kyrgyzstan PrisonDespite the prison riots, the assassinations, the refugees from Andijan, the fuel crisis from Uzbekistan, the growing drug trade and economic upheaval, President Bakiev and Prime Minister Kulov were able to stay on target with constitutional change.  The legislature was changed from 70 members to 95, to allow for more representation; presidential term limits were put firmly in place.  The new Constitution was ratified in November of 2006.  But a new government had to be formed to activate the changes.  Between the need to re-start the government, and the heightened vendetta against Mr. Kulov, the way forward seemed to be that Mr. Kulov would resign as Prime Minister, President Bakiev would re-nominate him, and in the ensuing fracas, they would be able to call for new elections.

According to the Constitution, Bakiev had only to recommend Mr. Kulov three times‚ if his candidacy was refused on the third attempt, the government would dissolve and elections would again take place.  Mr. Kulov agreed to resign in order to force elections for legislature, believing that Mr. Bakiev would keep his promise of partnership made before the election, and thrice-recommend him as promised in November.  But he was apparently betrayed: President Bakiev only recommended Mr. Kulov to the post of Prime Minster twice.  Instead of following through with a third nomination, he put forth his ally Azim Isabekov.  Mr. Isabekov was accepted.

Mud for the slingingPossibly Bakiev feared further instability stemming from another set of elections; possibly he could not withstand the mood of the legislature, against Mr. Kulov and against structural reform.  Or it could have been electoral jealousy, as Mr. Kulov is considered a charismatic rival.  In any case, President Bakiev neither stood up to the legislature nor stood by his political ally, and the few comments he has made about this decision sound weak.

Much of the public (and certainly Mr. Kulov himself) regard the reshuffling of government posts as a political betrayal.  The unity between North and South is fractured, and the power of local officials, local oligarchs, and legislators with unsavory ties is increasing.  It seems Mr. Bakiev has wasted his opportunity to unify the country politically, and that his government is losing control over the regions.  In the meantime, Mr. Kulov has joined the opposition, which is composed of both idealists and reputed syndicate leaders.

From here, nobody looks upright, there's unrest, and Islamist rhetoric is rising, just as one might expect.  This week, the IMF is visiting Kyrgyzstan. I assume their effort will be to mend fences and push forward the Heavily Indebted Countries Program.  Mr. Bakiev has told his new, improved Cabinet to get to work on economic policy: the SCO Summit is coming up.  There's definitely mud slung all over the tulips, and more likely to come.

Hopefully something less than a storm will clean things up.  And remember, the tulip is a perennial‚ it can bloom more than once.

Photos: Voice of America, MosNews, Sutter