20 February 2008

Kyrgyz unrest could surface in spring

It’s become almost a tradition in the past few years for springtime in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to be a memorable season, with mass protests voicing political discontent, reports Kumar Bekbolotov.

Last April, it was the United Front, led by a former prime minister, which held street protests calling on President Kurmanbek Bakiev to step down. In May 2006, opposition rallies called for law and order and the curbing of the president’s powers. In March 2005, massive protests shook the state structure to its core, and led to the then president Askar Akaev fleeing the country.

Although public protest has shown itself to be less and less effective as an instrument of change, Kyrgyzstan’s weary public is expecting a new round of demonstrations this spring.

This is partly force of habit, and partly the conclusion to be drawn from recent political developments. The December parliamentary election produced a virtually one-party parliament, and the largest opposition party, Ata Meken, was entirely excluded under a controversial election rule.

The result is that many forces critical of the government have been excluded from the decision-making process and denied even a token measure of political participation.

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