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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 14:32 GMT
Kyrgyz uprising 'no revolution'
By Sarah Shenker
BBC News

Kyrgyzstan is celebrating on Friday a new national holiday marking the anniversary of the country's so-called Tulip Revolution a year ago.

President Kurmanbek Bakiev has described the peaceful overthrow of leader Askar Akayev on 24 March as "the triumph of justice".

Kyrgyz opposition supporters celebrates in front of the presidential palace in Bishkek, 24 March 2005, after seizing it.
One year on, the uprising's supporters no longer feel so jubilant
But while most agree that a regime blighted by corruption and nepotism needed to go, many residents of this poor Central Asia republic are still not in the mood for a party.

"There was never a time in the history of Kyrgyzstan when the confidence of the people in their government was so low," said Edil Baisalov of the Bishkek-based NGO, the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society.

The past year has been a bumpy ride, with a series of political assassinations, a difficult relationship between President Bakiev and Prime Minister Felix Kulov, parliamentary tussles and the postponement of much-anticipated constitutional reforms.

10 January: Prominent wrestler Raatbek Sanatbayev shot dead
1 November: Several jails hit by unrest after authorities move high-profile inmate
20 October: MP Tynchbek Akmatbayev and two aides shot dead during prison visit
22 September: MP and businessman Bayaman Erkinbayev shot dead
13 June: Security guards open fire on protesters in Osh, injuring at least seven
10 June: MP Jyrgalbek Surabaldiyev shot dead in Bishkek

On the eve of the anniversary, Mr Bakiev acknowledged that Kyrgyzstan had had its problems over the past year, but said time was needed to fight corruption and institute political reform.

But Prime Minister Kulov accepts that organised crime is taking its toll on the citizens.

"Many people today are frightened. They think the criminals are winning," he said in January.

An international think tank, the International Crisis Group, has gone further, labelling the nation a "faltering state".

Edil Baisalov acknowledged that the rhetoric of revolution did not easily translate into action. But "it takes a mediocre leadership to squander in such a short time so great a national support," he said.
President Bakiev (left) and Prime Minister Kulov
The country's new top leaders have not always seen eye to eye

He pointed out that a number of government officials had been accused of engaging in trafficking and having contacts with organised crime, and said that "criminal elements" previously in hiding had now come into the open - with some even seeking public office.

"The government does not have the political will to fight corruption and organised crime," he said.

"All of these corrupt people who were in place before, these law enforcement officers who harassed us, intimidated us, are all in place. And they don't shy away from using the same methods as a year ago."

Political science student Mirsuljan Namazaliev took part in the demonstrations in Bishkek that led to Mr Akayev's overthrow.

A member of the student movement Birge (Together), he said most people he knew were frightened by organised crime and felt frustrated at the slow pace of political and economic reform.

"We don't see any change in economic modernisation, it's the same people working in the presidential administration, they think that they cannot be overturned by the president or by ministers," he said.

Constitutional reform to shift power from the president to parliament should be a priority, he said.

"What is the revolution if it is the same people working there, if the youth who wanted change are not working in government, but are working in the bazaars?"

Kyrgyz parliament member Jyrgalbek Surabaldiyev's body lies on a pavement, left, June 10, 2005
Jyrgalbek Surabaldiyev is one of several MPs who have been killed

Djoormart Otorbaev, the director of the NGO Kyrgyz Investment Roundtable and a leading figure in the opposition Moya Strana (My Country) Party, believes the Bakiev government lacks the confidence to act decisively.

"We never expected that after the revolution, we would have quiet political developments, [but] a year on we [still] have a lot of political fights. Politics needs stability. Once government is established, then it can act efficiently," he said.

But he took issue with the ICG's description of Kyrgyzstan as a failing nation, stressing the progress that had been made:

Positive developments

"I am a realist. Change will not happen at the speed we desire, but a faltering state?

"There is peace, there is democratic development, there are statements that corruption and criminality will be tackled, there is free expression of opinions, political parties are very involved in civil society," he said.

While he might not be attending any street parties, Mr Baisalov also acknowledged that there had been some improvements.

"I don't doubt that 24 March was necessary. Akayev delivered his own destiny, it was truly a popular uprising," he said.

Mr Namazaliev argued that its benefit was its lesson in 'people power'.

"We are teaching the youth what the meaning of liberty is. Before, people thought that we couldn't protest to the president. My parents came to me and said 'what are we doing, he will kill you, you shouldn't protest to him'," he said.

"The conditions for effective democracy are better than they were under Akayev. The revolution made people realise that they can influence the government and parliament. They realised that they have rights equal to the rights of all citizens."

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29 Jan 06 |  Country profiles


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