Change of power in Kyrgyzstan: who is behind the "Game of Thrones"
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Change of power in Kyrgyzstan: who is behind the "Game of Thrones"

7 October , 09:44Photo: dw.com
Parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan sparked massive protests in Bishkek and other cities. In the form of their performances, they resemble the transformational revolutions that have already taken place in the post-Soviet space.

However, experts do not have a common opinion about what is unfolding before our eyes, and why the protest again has familiar faces.

Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil

After Sunday's elections, from 2 to 4 thousand people who disagreed with the election results came to Ala-Too Square in Bishkek. The authorities responded by force to the demands of the protesters to cancel the election results. As a result of the clashes, 590 people were injured, and one was killed. To the shouts "This is not Belarus for you!" protesters took over parliament and the presidential administration. The column, led by the son of former President Atambayev, went to the State Committee for National Security and released his father from prison. The current president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, described the protests as an attempt to seize power, but the election results were canceled.

Poor country rich in coups

Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest republics of the former Soviet Union. There are no natural resources there. After the collapse of the USSR, it became a trans-shipment point for Chinese goods for the entire post-Soviet space. In 1990, the clans formed at that time agreed and elected the head of the Academy of Sciences, Akayev, as president. A situation has developed in the country when all available resources - economic, mobilization ones - were distributed among several clans. None of these groups has advantages over the others, neither economic, nor political, nor the ability to influence the population. But no group has the ability to monopolize the resources of everyone else.

- There is no one force that can control everyone. There are coalitions, but there is no peace within the coalitions either. Plus, those who do not fall into these coalitions, they also have their own resources, both economic and political, and resources of influence on some part of the population. Therefore, we see another attempt at monopolization, which each time ends in failure and the beginning of another cycle from scratch, - explains Sergey Abashin, professor at the European University of St. Petersburg.

In Central Asia, in most of the former republics, the power of the First Secretary was reproduced. This did not happen in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, the absence of a strong leader led to a bloody civil war in the early 90s; in Kyrgyzstan, power has changed four times in 20 years, and not always voluntarily.

- Frequent power changes are the flip side of strong political competition. At the same time, there is insufficient legitimacy of the authorities. When one is superimposed on another, this happens. In Kyrgyzstan, the great fragmentation of clan interests, the division into North and South led to the fact that in the republic it was not possible to reproduce the power of the first secretary. - says political scientist, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies Alexey Makarkin.

North, South or Coalition

Each president of Kyrgyzstan, basically, represented the interests of either the north of the country or the south. This did not mean that broader coalitions involving other regions or clans were not created for the transfer of power. The first president, Akayev, was supported by the northerners; he was overthrown by a coalition in which the southern factions played a key role, although there were also northern clans in it. Akayev fell because he did not become a consensus figure. Then Bakiyev came from the South, he was overthrown by a broad coalition based on the North. It was headed by the future president Atambayev.

- Atambayev was the only one who was able to transfer power in the elections, which Zheembekov won. But Atambayev believed that he had transferred power to the weakest representative of the South, and then the country could be consolidated. Zheembekov will be the president, and Atambayev himself will rule the country as the head of the ruling party, - Aleksey Makarkin describes the Kyrgyz "Games of Thrones".

None of this worked, his party of power collapsed and disintegrated. Zheembekov wanted to free himself from custody. Atambayev was arrested as a result of an impressive military operation involving military units. Today he was released from prison by his son with the help of supporters.

Sergey Abashin does not agree with this geographical division of the country. Yes, each of the presidents represented either the North or the South, but this division is very conditional. Oligarchic corruption groups have a more complex division, more often economic, not just regional.

- We see all the time that the current president - first it was Akayev, then Bakiev, then Atanbaev, then Zheembekov - they and the group that rallied around them are trying to monopolize power, to enlarge, they are trying to somehow press their opponents economically or politically... But each time they face the problem that they cannot do this.

The Kyrgyz are pragmatic people. In their struggle for a place in the sun, they do not use ideology or religion to gain power. And although the last president actively used religious rhetoric, appealing to it does not become a way to mobilize political forces. The religious factor does not work there, they are all secular, they are all pragmatists. This was confirmed by Alexey Makarkin. Kyrgyzstan is a secular republic, and there is no Islamic factor in this competition. Unlike neighboring Tajikistan, for example, none of the players raised the flag of religious fundamentalism.

Revolution or power struggle

Out of 16 parties participating in the elections, only 4 entered parliament. Of these, two are directly affiliated with the incumbent president, and the third is indirectly. As a result, the opposition will be represented by one party in parliament, and even then with a very soft position.

"The favorites were the parties "Birimdik" and "Mekenim Kyrgyzstan". The first promotes traditional for Kyrgyzstan pro-Eurasian values, orientation towards the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, and the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party plans to strengthen cooperation with China, especially in the context of global infrastructure projects. Both parties are centrist and were supposed to play a leading role in the government coalition, the country's political course, both in foreign and domestic policy, would have changed little”, - says Ilya Grashchenkov, head of the Center for the Development of Regional Policy.

Party "Birimdik" ("Unity") - the party of the president, "Mekenim Kyrgyzstan" was created by a rich clan of Kyrgyz oligarchs Anatroimov, associated with the president. The first used the administrative resource, the second - financial.

"There was direct bribery of voters, money was handed out, given by commanding officers, so the victory, the deafening victory, when not a single opposition party passed, turned out to be a trigger for the current indignation. This is not the first time this situation has arisen”, - notes Sergey Abashin.

On the other hand, old, well-known people came to the coordination council of the opposition. They have been in politics for two decades already, and for them only their position in relation to the authorities changes. There is a part of the elite that hopes that new people with new ideas will come to power, but so far there are none.

The motives for the actions of the people, whoever mobilized them, are based not only on protecting the interests of the owners, as it might seem from the outside. This speech, taking place against the background of the economic and civilization crisis, shows how the social paradigm is changing, Ilya Grashchenkov believes. The key for the Kyrgyz is becoming about the welfare state, especially in times like these, times of a pandemic. The lack of a full-fledged medical system for everyone, the inability of the state to help the poorest strata and the dependence of families on foreign earnings are becoming obvious to all citizens of the country. In the context of the closure of borders, first of all, to Russia, it requires the authorities to take measures to create jobs at home.

Kyrgyz go to work not only in Russia. Nowadays there are many Kyrgyz taxi drivers not only in Moscow, but also in Chicago. People go to Turkey, people trade with China. But Kyrgyz citizens go to work in large numbers in Russia. There are 600-700 thousand people in Russia at once, plus 150 thousand already have Russian citizenship. Therefore, in addition to the general history, Russia's influence on Central Asia, in general, and on Kyrgyzstan, in particular, is so great.

Balance of interests or dominant role of Russia

For Russia, Kyrgyzstan is not the most difficult partner in the post-Soviet space. Belarus, not to mention Georgia and Ukraine, is much worse. The Kremlin took part in its time in the domestic politics of this country too. At one time, he helped the opposition, which overthrew President Bakiyev. The Kremlin had a big grudge against him. When, in the early 2000s, the Americans were our partners in the anti-Taliban coalition in Afghanistan, Putin offered the Americans to place their military base in Kyrgyzstan. Then they fell out with America, and President Putin openly asked Bakiyev to remove the base. Bakiyev agreed, but left the base. Russia was offended and supported the opposition. The next president, Atambayev, came and removed the base. Russia was pleased.

"There was no close human relationship with Atambayev. We were pleased that Atambayev removed the base, cooperated with him, but at the same time they had nothing against Zheembekov. When Zheembekov arrested Atambayev, there were many speculations about what Russia would do. But there are no human relations with Atanbaev, as, for example, with Kocharyan in Armenia. At the same time, Zheembekov and the Unity party, where his brother is, emphasize friendliness", - says Alexey Makarkin.

For Russia, the situation in Kyrgyzstan is not a major concern. Its dependence is so great that the Kremlin is sure that whoever comes to power, everyone will cooperate with Russia, as long as their migrants are allowed in. All internal forces are really trying to maintain relations - and not only with Russia, although with Russia in the first place.

- The country is poor, and they are all critically dependent on external forces. Yes, Matraimov has a big business related to China. Yes, Atambayev had a business in Turkey, but at the same time he was in good close ties with Russia. Yes, Zheembekov also traveled to Russia before the elections and met with Putin. The new government will flirt with Russia, and with China, and with all possible countries and will not, on its own initiative, destroy this multi-vector, unless some external force demands complete obedience.

For Russia, Kyrgyzstan is important militarily, as a point located between Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. With the help of several military bases, we keep the entire region under military control. China is actively buying everything in Central Asia that it can buy. In addition, trade routes from China through Kyrgyzstan are strategically important for the country.

Power in Kyrgyzstan changes dramatically, but the state does not self-destruct. They will now elect institutions, says Sergei Abashin, and will exist for another five years after all external players - Russia, China, Turkey, Arab countries - invest in this stability.

However, all post-Soviet crises have their own lessons. Ilya Grashchenkov believes:

- Without changes in Russia, none of the former republics will be able to return to the path of development. Russia, with its corrupt ruling elite and a market-based approach, remains the main reactionary force throughout the CIS. Blazing along all borders: Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and now Kyrgyzstan. All this creates a factor of instability in Russia itself.

Against the background of the present, with guns and victims of the war in Karabakh and the striving of Belarusians for life, as in Europe, the Kyrgyz unrest does not bode well for acute moments, but another center of instability has appeared on the outskirts of the former empire.

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