Ukraine ‘s Orange Revolution has produced a not unexpected reaction throughout Central Asia , a region where elections, more often than not, are orchestrated endorsements of the ruling party and its leader. This reaction is one of profound fear and alarm. Throughout Central Asia leaders have responded by denouncing the result and claiming that they will not tolerate the export of revolution into their own country, especially as this is being orchestrated by unnamed outside forces. In other words, revolution, whether in Ukraine or elsewhere, is a foreign plot introduced by enemies of the regime to destabilize otherwise legitimate governments.
In Kyrgyzstan , where parliamentary elections are occurring in February and presidential elections in October, the government has been particularly anxious, almost hysterical, about the possibilities of such an outcome. Of course, these statements about the external origins of the revolutions and supposed “foreign” or “opposition” elements are attempts to conceal the fact that the Ukrainian revolution, like Georgia ‘s before it, was fueled by internal discontent. Obviously these leaders think that all dissent must be inspired by foreign forces, as they do not want to acknowledge that the latent discontent aroused in Kyiv and Tbilisi could trigger a reversal of fortune for ruling leaders.
Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akayev and his followers have been tirelessly proclaiming the threat of a coup d’etat, of revolution being imported from the outside by a “clandestine international,” or attempts by terrorists, drug runners, and other enemies to exploit the elections either by financing the opposition or encouraging a repeat of events in Ukraine by charging rigged elections and thereby de-legitimizing the government. Akayev’s deputies have been no less assiduous in charging that the opposition in parliament is making moves that look like a duplication of the Georgian Rose Revolution. Foreign Minister Askar Aytmatov similarly denounced the idea of velvet revolutions and extolled Kyrgyzstan ‘s alleged transition to a new more democratic form of governance, although this has yet to be seen. Likewise, Kyrgyzstan ‘s ruling party has accused the West, and especially U.S. Ambassador Stephen Young, of siding with opposition leaders and thus interfering in Kyrgyzstan ‘s domestic affairs.
These types of warnings and charges have become standard operating procedure by now, and it is unlikely that anyone having a degree of political literacy seriously believes them except frightened officials who have fallen victim to their own propaganda. But what makes this atmosphere of extravagant and unfounded charges dangerous is that it has increased the likelihood of attempted violence by the government. We now know that government-inspired violence almost broke out in Ukraine , and it appears that high-ranking officials in Kyrgyzstan are already mobilizing to prepare to use force. A draft law before parliament would ban all public demonstrations that are not registered nine days in advance and designate the presidential residence, parliament, and certain governmental buildings and transportation routes as off limits.
Similarly, the government called a meeting of the Defense Council in December 2004, although by law this body is not supposed to meet until after martial law has been declared. During the meeting Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev lumped together the threat of terrorism, which Kyrgyz authorities have routinely warned about for more than two years, with that of an electoral victory by the opposition, which would, he charged, destabilize the country. Akayev ordered his colleagues in the Defense Council to do their utmost to defend public safety, Kyrgyzstan ‘s sovereignty, and the country’s territorial integrity. Here, he explicitly invoked the military component.
In January 2005 Tanayev reportedly held a meeting with regional governors and informed them that the President had sanctioned repressive measures against the opposition up to and including the physical elimination of regime opponents. In view of the fact that most external observers have characterized Kyrgyzstan ‘s opposition as being weak and fractured, it is highly unlikely that it could even mount an opposition like that which took place in Georgia or Ukraine . But none of these considerations have deterred the regime, which clearly intends to put on a show of force regardless of the consequences Obviously this hysteria and resort to forceful measures betrays the inner weakness of the regime and suggests that elections are the least of threats to its stability. Rather, their inherent illegitimacy will turn out to be the fundamental cause of what will almost certainly be their eventual downfall.
(Kyrgyz Television First Channel, December 26, 2004, January 11, and January 13; AKIPress News Agency, January 6; Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 22, 2004, Russkii kurier, December 22, 2004; MSN, Bishkek, December 21, 2004; Associated Press, December 31, 2004; Itar-Tass, December 25, 2004).