HIGH TIME TO REASSESS KYRGYZSTAN’S POLITICAL OPPOSITION.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 88
Leading international organizations, human rights groups and some Western governments have in the last few years undertaken earnest efforts to identify a democratic alternative President Askar Akaev’s regime in Kyrgyzstan. Those efforts have focused on leaders of opposition parties which recently joined in an umbrella movement, initially called Popular Front and then renamed Popular-Patriotic Movement. A heavy political and moral investment was made in some of those parties during last year’s parliamentary and presidential election campaigns, on the assumption that those parties’ representation in government bodies would promote democratic pluralism.
On May 1 in Bishkek, those beneficiaries of Western support joined with the two Communist parties in staging Soviet-style observances of that holiday. Participants included: Feliks Kulov’s Ar-Namys [Dignity, or Honor] party, Dooronbek Sadyrbaev’s Kairan-El [Poor People’s] party, Omurbek Tekenbaev’s Ata-Meken [Fatherland] Socialist Party, and some lesser parties, as well as Tursunbek Akunov’s Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan (HRMK). Apart from the Communists, all or almost all of these parties and their leaders are usually classified as democratic by Western sympathizers.
The leaders and their supporters marked May 1 by staging a rally in front of the Mikhail Frunze Museum and laying flowers at the monuments to Frunze and to Urkia Salieva in downtown Bishkek. Frunze was the Red Army commander who conquered large parts of Central Asia for the Russian Bolshevik government around 1920. Salieva fought against the anti-Soviet Basmachi movement around 1930 and has been held up by the official propaganda over the decades as a model female Communist.
The participants had hoped to lay flowers and hold their rally at the Lenin monument, but were unable to do so because the authorities organized a public athletic event there. Sadyrbaev and the Communist Party’s Chairman Absamat Masaliev were mandated to represent their allies in genuflecting before Lenin’s statue. At the end of the day, an estimated 1,000 Bishkek residents had taken part in these opposition parties’ action. It was pronounced a success by Emil Aliev, who substitutes for the imprisoned Feliks Kulov as leader of Ar-Namys.
The next day, HRMK’s Akunov held a special news conference to report that he had attended an international conference in support of the Palestinian Intifada against Israel. Held on April 23-24 in Tehran, the conference was attended by some Palestinian guerrilla leaders as well as by Iran’s top political and religious leaders, and it issued a resolution condemning Israel and the United States.
Leaders of at least four of those non-Communist opposition parties met in Bishkek on April 25 and on May 2 with two top officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Secretary-General Jan Kubis and Parliamentary Assembly’s Chairman Adrian Severin. OSCE representatives have been sympathetic toward these parties until now, as have others who are genuinely dedicated to democratization in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere.
Yet parties like those of Kulov, Sadyrbaev or Tekerbaev and their leaders themselves showed all along a lack of democratic credentials. They stuck to socialist ideology and/or chose to make alliances with the two Communist parties, and in the case of Kulov favored a Russian political and cultural orientation. Kulov–with his thoroughly Chekist background–may or may not be a victim of persecution, but he and other opposition leaders are simply anti-Akaev, rather than pro-democracy or pro-market. Akaev’s regime may be flawed in any number of ways, but these parties do not represent a credible democratic alternative for Kyrgyzstan (Itar-Tass, April 30, May 1; Kabar, May 1-2; Kyrgyz Television, RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, May 2; see the Monitor, March 12, 26).
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