“Westernisers” in Kyrgyzstan

23.10.2015766
A strange union in Ar Namys:

A strange union in Ar Namys: Ravshan Jeenbekov, Omurbek Abdrakhmanov, Felix Kulov and Kubatbek Baybolov. Credits: Akipress

In Kyrgyzstan’s last elections, which we recently wrote about, there was not a single party entering parliament that called into question the relationship with Russia. This does not mean, however, that on the national political scene there are no proponents of a, to the contrary, much closer relationship with the West.

Civil society organisations

As a rule, “Westernisers” are considered to be working in non-profit (non-governmental) organizations. The level of expert and political attention focused on their activities, particularly surrounding debates regarding the law “On Foreign Agents”, speaks to this. Additionally, according to political scientist Denis Berdakov (Region.kg), about 250 thousand people, or 12% of the country’s entire workforce, are employed in the non-governmental sector. Moreover, these are generally active and educated youth who will be setting new political trends in the upcoming years.

A statement by the country’s president Almazbek Atambaev, who accused NGOs and individual politicians of attempting to destabilise the situation in the republic on the eve of the elections, serves as a recent example of the seriousness of this issue: “A great festering occurred in the country. These people were executing someone else’s orders. It was important to them that the elections happened as in the past with meetings, disruptions and the destabilisation of the situation in the country,” he announced (citation from the paper Evening Bishkek).

They see civil society organisations’ negative activities in the fact that support for the Customs Union and Eurasian Economic Union is not very high. According to a survey by SIAR, in February 2014, 49% of respondents fully or partially supported entering into the Customs Union. Political analyst Igor Shestakov said in a teleconference with Russian experts that, “those who promote integration with the CU work only in Bishkek, but there is no real information being offered throughout the rest of Kyrgyzstan. The opponents are developing their positions there” (citation Evening Bishkek).

Politicians

There are incomparably fewer pro-West politicians in the country. The main and only noticeable pro-Western figures in the republic are Omurbek Abdrakhmanov and Ravshan Jeenbekov. In the last elections, they ran with the party Ar-Namys, failing to break through the 7% barrier. Along with this, it is interesting that the political party itself and its leader Felix Kulov have consistently demonstrated a clear pro-Russian stance on every issue.

Such a strange alliance of politicians before the elections has been explained in various ways. “The reason for our unification is a common difficult history. We have always had a good relationship with each other,” Jeenbekov told Radio Azattyk.

“The ideologies of the two sides are completely different. … Therefore, this alliance is a political stunt in the run up to the elections,” politician and former diplomat Adil Turdukulov said in comments to the same radio station.

In 2006 Abdrakhmanov and Jeenbekov actively opposed the regime of former president Kurmanbek Bakiev. Later, fearing for their lives, they had to go to the US, returning after the April revolution of 2010. Both fought the decision to close the American transit centre at the Manas Airport.

Until recently, the party Reform (before, For Life Without Barriers) was endeavoring to conduct activities on a mass scale. It was composed of young activists famous, in part, as “internet intelligentsia” because of their focus on social networking sites. Mirbek Asangariev was the leader of the political party.

In the run up to the last elections, Reform joined forces with the party Republic – Ata Zhurt in order to, according to Iskender Sharsheev, participate in the implementation of reforms. Prior to this, Reform was actively engaged in fighting against Kyrgyzstan’s integration into the Customs Union and for full-scale liberalisation of the economy. “Membership in the Customs Union will have a negative impact on the development of small and medium-sized business, the locomotive of our economy, which for the most part depend on non-CU countries for supplies of equipment and raw materials. Moreover, as practice has demonstrated, the decision-making process in the CU is not always handled in a transparent, fair or democratic way, which could cut down on Kyrgyzstan’s political freedom and independence dramatically,” stated the party in its manifesto on its official Facebook page in 2014.

Post election plans?

Ex-deputy Omurbek Abdrakhmanov has already managed to share his plans. The politician wants to leave his former activities behind and try his hand as a journalist-analyst. “I’ve always been interested in writing about Kyrgyzstan’s politics and economy. That’s why I’d like to try out the role of political observer. I will monitor how well the party members in the newly formed ZhK (parliament – note) live up to their promises,” he commented to Sputnik agency. In this way, the liberal front is losing one of its most senior representatives.

As for Ravshan Jeenbekov, he declared that he would continue the political struggle. “My only road is politics. I will fight till the very end for the establishment of effective parliamentary governance and democracy. I intend to persevere in my aims,” Jeenbekov told Gezit.org.

For now, Reform intends to move forward with its goals within the framework of the Republic – Ata Zhurt party. The law “On Foreign Agents” passed the first reading back in June, but its consideration has stalled since then.

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