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Kyrgyzstan crackdown: Opposition down, not out

This post is designed to help non-Kyrgyzstanis follow individuals and organizations involved in Kyrgyzstan's current political crisis, as well as report on further developments:

A Spectacle with spectatorsFollowing the constitutional demonstrations of April 11 through 19, 2007, which ended badly: 
Arrests were made, and opposition leaders were to be held for two months, in order to "complete investigations", according to the lawyer of one detainee.  Two days later, Citizens Against Corruption, a Kyrgyzstan-based human rights organization, reported that the National Security Committee had already interrogated 52 opposition members.

Three leaders out of the 52 detainees have been particularly noted by Kyrgyzstan's press:

1. Omurbek Suvanaliev, the staff chief for the United Front for a Worthy Kyrgyzstan.  Mr. Suvanaliev is a former Minister of Internal Affairs who was weeded from President Bakiev's cabinet in February of this year.  Under his administration, police forces had become more adept at ferreting out and stopping organized crime.
2. Omurbek Abdrahmanov, the President of Kyrgyzstan's Union of Entrepreneurs and a leader of the For Reforms opposition movement, and
3. Adilet Aitikeev, a twenty-year old student and head of the Kanjar (Dagger) Youth Movement.

Left Jab, Right Cross: Current v. Previous PM influence
On April 27, 2007, Mr. Feliks Kulov asked that he be arrested in place of three opposition leaders already jailed.  The high drama of this is unquestionable.  Furthermore, it worked: the three opposition leaders have been freed.  However, other accounts suggest that Kyrgyzstan's current Prime Minister, HE Almazbek Atambaev, chaired a conference that decided the three should be let go.  Therefore, the detentions of these three were for four days rather than two months.

Demagoguery–er, Democracy–at Work
Mr. Kulov, 2007Mr. Kulov's generous offer to exchange himself for three people has some interesting subtexts, some favorable, some smart, and some just a little humorous.  First of all, it casts him as a martyr for the cause; second, it suggests that his incarceration is worth the incarceration of three others; third, it recalls his previous unjust imprisonment, which adds to his luster; fourth, it brings him back into the leadership spotlight in comparison to both administration and opposition; and fifth, perhaps the most important of all, it tends to cancel out his public indecisiveness on the night of the April 19 crackdown.

On the 19th of April, when the crowd was getting out of control in the vicinity of Kyrgyzstan's White House, Mr. Kulov, along with most of the rest of the opposition, was busy excusing himself to the press rather than trying to rein in the crowd.  Mirsulzhan Namazaliev reported on this extensively at, as I noted in a previous post on this site.  The opposition's "damage control" rather than "crowd control" on April 19th took the initiative away from the opposition and put it in the hands of Bakiev's administration. 

The lone exception to opposition's anguished hand-washing, Mr. Kubatbek Baibolov, tried to reason with the unruly crowd and then stuck around during the police actions to note its outsized use of force: eight policement clubbing one protester, for instance.  Mr. Baibolov is a leader of the Union of Democratic Forces.

In contrast to Mr. Baibolov, Mr. Kulov, and so forth, one press story documents the bad manners of current prime minister Mr. Atambaev during the police action: inappropriate laughter and four-letter words.  The tone of the article is rather crushed than accusing (check the link immediately above). And now that the administration has closed down for holiday until May 12th, they have given up the initiative again, arrests, detentions, and interrogations notwithstanding. 

The distinction is this: one can use force to win one's position, but it takes good political skills to win one's point.  Kyrgyzstan's administration is hardly the only administration that needs to take this lesson to heart–but with a mobilized populace, it is an administration that needs to learn this lesson soon.

Another interesting interface between media/officials: RFE/RL interview with Prime Minister Atambaev 

Illustration: Edward Bryan Seago, artist–Leicester Galleries ; People's Daily Online