02 November 2006

Opposition day

I took a run this morning around Ala-Too Square, the city’s central square, and there were no signs of demonstrators, but the government is making a huge show of force with several hundred police and military personnel, including canine, mounted, and riot-suppression units. There was even a little military parade about 9 a.m., complete with a drum and bugle corps. To my mild surprise, there was no heavy display of weaponry or military hardware, save for batons, riot shields, and some body armor. I’ve seen much more weapons brandished by Albuquerque police at peaceful anti-war rallies, especially during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. Members of the press were present today, though I didn’t find anything worth shooting with the pocket-sized camera I tucked into a small fanny pack

Road closures, for vehicular traffic only, have expanded since last night and there are clusters of police—twos, threes and larger groups—walking the areas off the square. The opposition movement apparently plans on entering the central city from multiple directions, according to a friend who does public relations for American University. Many businesses are open and the public is moving about, but the level of activity is a step down from yesterday.

Yesterday around about a hundred representatives of Ata-Mekeh, an organizational member of the opposition movement, marched silently in front of the parliament and AUCA. There are apparently no political parties per see in Krygystan, no political organization united by common ideology or policy goals. The centers of political party are often economic and includes clan-based networks, private businesses, some of which successfully looted the Soviet infrastructure; drug and human traffickers, and groups of corrupt public officials, often united by family, who siphon off public revenues for themselves. It’s not even fair to say that government represents all of Kyrgyzstan. It some areas of the country, public services and public protection are provided by the shadow centers of power and the government is essentially non-existent. These competing centers of power often collect what would otherwise be government tax revenue in exchange from protection against crime and the provision of essential services, including emergency relief.

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