Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tulip Revolution 2: Electric Boogaloo


In commemoration of the five-year-and-two-weeks anniversary of the 2005 "Tulip" revolution that deposed hated Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev, the huddled masses of Kyrgyzstan have celebrated with an uprising that deposed the hated Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev. Despite government suppression of the protests that resulted in 74 dead, Bakiev was ultimately forced out of power and had to leave the country. Now, former Bakiev supporter Roza Otunbayeva is acting as interim president.

For a good analysis of the events, as well as an eye-witness report, check out this article and for an overview of the events leading up to the original Tulip revolution, check out this article.

So, will the new president, Roza Otunbayeva, be any different?


Otunbayeva started her political career as the USSR's representative to Unesco. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she took on various ambassadorial positions in Akayev. Although not as repressive as the other post-Soviet regimes in Central Asia, Akeyev's rule was marred by corruption and political manipulation. While he was only committed to democracy when it suited him, he was completely committed to right-wing, neo-liberal economic policy.

Throughout the first decade of Akayev's rule, Otunbayeva never had any problem any of this. But by 2004, she herself became the victim of Akayev's. In 2005, the masses of Kyrgyzstan were inspired by the Rose Revolution in Georgia and Orange Revolution in the Ukraine to overthrow Akayev, Otunbayeva was inspired by the co-option of those revolutions by equally corrupt pro-US governments, to make sure that the Tulip revolution was co-opted by Bakiev. The result was that a revolution against a corrupt, increasingly dictatorial, neo-liberal, pro-US government resulted in the establishment of a corrupt, increasingly dictatorial, neo-liberal, pro-US government.

To her credit, she did break with Bakiev faster than she broke with Akayev. She did so in 2006 but, after leaving, she joined the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, led by Almazbek Atambayev, Bakiev's prime minister. Atambayev claimed to represent the opposition even while serving prime minister but his previous support for the crushing of demonstrations with riot police put that into question, so much so that when speaking at an anti-Bakiev protest in 2007, he was booed by the protestors.

Now this party is leading the interim government. Since Bakiev has no support for the time being the main potential opposition party is the United Front for a Worthy Future for Kyrgyzstan, led by Felix Kulov. Like Otunbayeva, Kulov flittered back and forth between support for Gorbachev, Akayev, Bakiev and the opposition to Bakiev. That being said he was one of the first people to Break from supporting Akiev, but that was because he was forced to resign from his position as Vice President because of a corruption scandal in 1993.

The central problem with politics in Kyrgyzstan is that there is no working class political party. All the political parties, and all the politicians, are dominated by Akeyev's cronies and former cronies. They may differ over whether to orient more towards the US or Russia. As such they may disagree about a few issues like US use of the Manas airbase. When there's an uprising or potential uprising of the southern peasantry (as in Tulip Revolution 1) or the northern industrial workers (as in Tulip Revolution 2) there may be disagreements as to whether to use the carrot or the stick. But the main differences between the different political forces is over who gets the spoils.

In the US the lack of any real working class political representation means we keep on going back and forth between Democrats and Republicans who promise change and fail to deliver. In Kyrgyzstan, with less democracy and much more entrenched corruption and semi-feudal tribal politics, it means we can expect "Tulip Revolution 3: The Search for Spock", maybe around 2015 or so.

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