Monday, March 21, 2005

The Final Fall of the Soviet Empire?

It looks like we're all going to have to learn how to spell "Kyrgyzstan" now. A "Tulip Revolution" is endangering the remote nation's Moscow-aligned authoritarian government after it attempted to rig parliamentary elections. It looks like this will be a bumpier ride than in Ukraine, and the reports on this obscure conflict are even less informative in describing what the opposition stands for.

But the wider context is easier to figure out. Russian president Vladimir Putin's dream, pursued over the past five years, has been to reconstruct the old Soviet empire by supporting like-minded authoritarian leaders in the former Soviet Republics—yet his ambitions have been consistently thwarted, with the people rebelling against his pawns in Georgia, Ukraine, and now Kyrgyzstan.

"Kyrgyzstan Orders Review of Election," Kadyr Toktogulov, AP via Washington Times, 3/21/05

"More than 17,000 people rallied Monday against Akayev, calling for his resignation, and some of them took over government buildings in at least four cities.... The unrest began early this month to protest alleged election breaches in the Feb. 27 parliamentary polls. It intensified after the subsequent March 13 run-offs that the opposition, European countries, and the United States said were seriously flawed, a charge denied by the government.... 'This is a new day in our history,' said Omurbek Tekebayev, an official of the opposition, which he said would create alternative government bodies throughout the country. Tekebayev said the deputy regional police chief had joined the opposition and would be in charge of police under the region's new government.... Otunbayeva said the opposition would guarantee the security of Akayev and other government officials if they go, 'like it was in Georgia and Ukraine.'... Akayev was long regarded as the most reform-minded leader in ex-Soviet Central Asia and the country won praise for its comparative openness. But he has recently shown increasing signs of cracking down. In 2002, his reputation was tarnished after police killed six people protesting the arrest of an opposition lawmaker."