[promoted to the Frontpage by BooMan. And a big welcome to Soj]

If you want to know why international funding and training made the Rose (Rep. of Georgia) and Orange (Ukraine) Revolutions successful, you need to know only one thing – in today’s world, a successful revolution must be televised.

Unfortunately for the people of Kyrgyzstan, the television cameras from the west are missing.  Everything else is in place – a long-ruling, authoritarian, corrupt leader, rigged elections, a restless population and demonstrations in the street.  If the world was paying attention, we might be able to get Kyrgyzstan into the democratic column.  Alas…
I last wrote about the Kyrgyzstan elections on February 24.  Last weekend, Kyrgystan held the run-off elections for all the parliamentary candidates who did not receive over 50% of the votes, as was the case for more than half the candidates.  The Kyrgyz authorities managed to get most of the popular opposition candidates “disqualified” from running but Kyrgyz voters have the option of voting “none of the above”.  And friends, that’s just what they did.

In the run-off elections, the candidate who gets the most votes, regardless of percentage, is declared the winner.  And so President Askar Akayev now has his solidly loyal parliament to rubberstamp his decisions.  But the people are not happy and protests continue.

In the town of Kochkor, approximately 3,000 protestors occupied a government building, demanding free and transparent elections.

Protestors also took over a government building in Jalal-Abad, imprisoning a government official within.  They also did the same thing in Talas, imprisoning the governor of the region there for 48 hours, also demanding free and transparent elections.

Protests are also scheduled for the city of Osh, which is the biggest city in the southern part of the country.

Both the OSCE as well as ENEMO, which is a pan-CIS monitoring organization, said the recent elections were not free and fair.  Amazingly, the American Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan has also stepped up to the plate:

Ambassador Stephen Young said Sunday’s runoff parliamentary elections and the original vote on Feb. 27 were tarnished by harassment of independent media, government interference in the campaign process, and media bias.

The United States has an air base outside of Bishkek (the capital) and Kyrgyzstan has had particularly close ties with the United States of late, especially the state of Montana (see my report here from 2003).

President Akayev is technically barred from running for re-election this October, but the Kyrgyz opposition fears he will get his newly elected loyal parliament to change the rules so he can run again.  I’m happy to report that Ambassador Young said this:

“[Akayev’s] decision to step down this fall will mark a major advance in the development of Kyrgyzstan’s democracy and serve as a powerful example to other states in the region.”

So far, Akayev hasn’t cracked down too hard on the protesters, apparently out of fear that it would draw attention from the western press.  Odd, isn’t it?  So long as the footage is just of people protesting in the street, nobody cares, but if he gets his goons out there cracking skulls then the footage might make it to CNN or Fox.

Akayev hasn’t minced his words though:

The president also repeated allegations that opposition leaders, knowing that they are not competitive at the ballot-box, are seeking to foment unrest as a means of coming to power.

“Today some politicians who have suffered [electoral] defeat and are out of work have thrown away all masks, including the democratic mask,” Akayev said. He added that opposition protest calls were “aimed at plunging us all into unlawful actions and an abyss of civil war and interethnic clashes.”

Knowing that trying to get Akayev to admit a mistake is futile, the opposition has decided to form a parallel government in the city of Jalal-Abad.  I remind my readers that Yushchenko did the same thing before the Ukrainian Supreme Court ruled that the re-run election must be… re-run.

The opposition is also convening its own “parliament” or “congress” (called “kurultai” in Kyrgyz), called the Coordinating Council of Kyrgyz National Unity.  They’ve even elected a chairman, Jusupbek Jeenbekov.  They’re hoping to convene other kurultais in the Talas and Osh regions as well.

So what’s going to happen?  Will Akayev finally lose his patience and send in the troops to disperse these protestors?  Will he negotiate some kind of quiet compromise with them?  Or will some western cameras get some incendiary footage and put Akayev under the world’s spotlight?

Will Kyrgyzstan get its long-awaited democracy?  Only if the rest of the world pays them the same kind of attention that Ukraine got…


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