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Kyrgyzstan and the ‘Tulip revolution’
OPPOSITION LEADER Kurmanbek Bakiev has taken over as ‘acting president’ of the former central Asian Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan after president Askar Akayev fled into exile.
Earlier huge protests, sparked by election fraud and anger over government corruption and widespread poverty, turned into an uprising . Kyrgyzstan is third former Soviet republic in recent years to succumb to so-called "people’s power".
NIALL MULHOLLAND reports on developments.
PROTESTS BEGAN in the south of Kyrgyzstan after disputed parliamentary elections in February, and a second round of elections on 13 March, which saw Akayev’s allies win all but six of the parliament’s 75 seats. With the election of two of Akayev’s children to parliament, opposition forces said they feared this marked an attempt to create a ruling dynasty.
The authoritarian Akayev regime is responsible for previous rigged elections and for harassment, imprisonment of opposition figures and for shutting down newspapers.
Large-scale protests against Akayev’s rule began in 2002, in opposition to a government deal that agreed to give territory to neighbouring China, and also against the jailing of an MP, Azimbek Beknazarov, and Feliks Kulov, an opposition leader.
Akayev was a former Stalinist apparatchik in the Communist Party, who jumped over to capitalist counter revolution and became President in 1990. He was re-elected shortly after independence in 1991 and again in 1995. He promised to create a democratic state and to develop the economy but failed abysmally on both counts.
Akayev attempted to play to both the US capitalist superpower and Russia, its giant neighbour. Following 9/11, US forces were allowed to use the Manas airport base in Bishkek, the capital city. Akayev supported Bush’s so-called ‘war on terror’ and was applauded by the US for his hard-line action against ‘Islamic extremism’. This gave Akayev the pretext to increase his grip on power.
In September 2003, the Kyrgyz government agreed to allow Russian military forces to deploy at Kant airbase, just 30 miles from US troops.
Who’s behind the ‘Tulip revolution’?
THE WESTERN press is generally mystified over the character of the recent opposition movement to Akayev. The ‘Tulip revolution’ does not have the strong pro-Western slant as recent popular movements in two other former Soviet states, Georgia and Ukraine.
But it is clear that the ‘Tulip revolution’ – despite its ‘leaders’, many of whom are members of Kyrgyzstan’s ‘political class’ that have fallen out with President Akayev - is fuelled by working people’s outrage over the impoverished conditions Kyrgyz people suffer.
However, working people do not have mass independent working class organisations to lead their struggle beyond overthrowing the corrupt and brutal Akayev regime. To go forward, workers need to create a government genuinely representing the urban and rural workers and the poor.
Opposition leader, Kurmanbek Bakiev, head of the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan, led recent Bishkek protests. But he previously served as a prime minister until two years ago, and was forced to resign after the police shooting of protesters in the southern district of Aksy.
Under the rule of these mafia-style capitalist politicians, ethnic divisions in Kyrgystan can grow. Different politicians will reflect different clan and ethnic-based capitalist interests. In doing so, they will stoke up ethnic differences and indulge in the old ruling-class tactic of divide and rule.
Historically, the Kyrgyz are regarded as ‘moderate’ Muslims and ethnic Kyrgyz in Afghanistan were oppressed by the former Taliban regime. But if a workers’ party does not fill the vacuum political Islam can make headway across Central Asia, setting ethnic groups against each other.
No doubt, Bush will claim that events in Kyrgyz show the US-sponsored ‘democratic wave’ is spreading across the region and is a vindication of the White House’s foreign policies.
But the ‘democratic revolution’, in the hands of imperialist powers, is a tool to force ‘regime change’ that furthers the interests of the ruling class. In doing so, the imperialist powers and local ruling classes cynically manipulate genuine pro-democratic moods. The only ‘democracy’ the US wants is where the main parties support capitalism and imperialism.
Just as workers in Kyrgyzstan must reject the influence of US imperialism, it is also in their class interests to reject the meddling of Russian imperialism.
Earlier this week, right-wing Russian nationalists called on Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to "intervene" to support Akayev.
Workers and the poor in Kyrgystan will not win decent living standards and permanent democratic rights on the basis of capitalism, no matter which section of the rich clans are in power.
Working people in Kyrgyzstan and everywhere can only rely on their own strength, and the solidarity of the international working class, to bring down dictatorships and to win democratic rights.
A struggle for democratic rights needs to be linked to a struggle for far-reaching social and economic change – for socialism – if all rights are to be permanent and living standards drastically improved.
In The Socialist 2 April 2005: