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Last Updated: Monday, 28 March, 2005, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Q&A: Kyrgyzstan protests
Protesters shouts slogans against President Askar Akayev in the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek
The opposition in Kyrgyzstan has ousted President Askar Akayev following protests against his rule.

BBC Eurasia analyst Malcolm Haslett explains the background to the discontent.

What have the protests been all about?

The protests were triggered by two things - the disbarment of a number of opposition candidates just before the recent parliamentary elections, and the apparent "promotion" of Akayev's family at that election.

Both his son and daughter won seats.

But the longer term background was the growing disenchantment of the Kyrgyz intellectual and political elite. Most of the opposition leaders are former allies of Mr Akayev who for one reason or another fell out with the president. They accuse him of an increasing centralisation of power, in the pattern of a number of other post-Soviet republics.

Who is likely to take charge?

Kurmanbek Bakiev, former prime minister, has been declared acting president. He has said elections for a formal successor to Mr Akayev will take place in June.

For the moment, there is a power struggle taking place between the old parliament - in charge before the recent parliamentary elections - and the new one, which some people feel has been discredited by the way those elections were held. The OSCE is trying to resolve the dispute.

It is not yet clear who will stand in the presidential elections. There are a number of opposition leaders, including Mr Bakiev, who may be contenders.

These include the former Security Minister and Bishkek Mayor Felix Kulov, who was released from prison following the storming of the White House, and who has been given his old portfolio back for now.

Mr Kulov was genuinely popular in the capital, and was jailed on what many believe were trumped up (or at least exaggerated) charges of misuse of power.

So is there a risk the old guard will take over?

It may look like the return of the old guard. But there is at least the possibility that the opposition leaders have learned from Mr Akayev's mistakes and will try to build a genuine relationship with the public at large, and not just use old traditional clan structures and patrimony.

Have the protests been influenced by events in Georgia and Ukraine?

Events in Ukraine and Georgia certainly provided a spur for those in Kyrgyzstan dissatisfied with the government. Suddenly it was no longer impossible to dislodge well-entrenched regimes by popular protest.

But the Kyrgyz opposition faced a different situation, and there is evidence that the Kyrgyz protests have been more spontaneous and less organised than those in Ukraine and Georgia.

One big question now is to what degree the opposition leaders can control and channel the obvious anger of demonstrators.

What are the chances of other central Asian leaders being overthrown?

It is really too early to speculate about the effect on neighbouring republics. Certainly the authorities in neighbouring Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan will be very worried by what has happened.

Does Kyrgyzstan matter? Is it strategically important?

There are both US and Russian air bases in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan was one of the two Central Asian states (the other is Uzbekistan) to offer the US a base during the build-up for the anti-Taleban war in Afghanistan. And the US and its allies are still there. Russia, afraid of the possible loss of its influence in a country which Moscow sees as in 'its sphere of influence' asked to set up its own air base only 40km from the US one.

So both countries have a very big interest in what goes on in Bishkek.

Mr Akayev was generally seen as pro-Russian, the opposition is partly 'pro-Western', but there are a lot of Kyrgyz who do not like either foreign base.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Background to Kyrgyzstan uprising



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