BISHKEK - Monday, May 28, 2012 -
Kyrgyzstan’s opposition has ended its series of anti-governmental rallies in the country's regions, claiming that it has tried to make the government respond to the needs of ordinary people, but saw no reaction. However, most experts believe that the opposition leaders, after experiencing their inability to mobilize people, simply decided to wait for “better times.”
Kamchibek Tashiev, leader of the Ata Zhurt opposition party, announced on April 23 that the united opposition will no longer hold rallies and demonstrations. According to Tashiev, the opposition wanted to build a bridge between ordinary people and the authorities but was ignored in this endeavor.
“From now on, we will only praise and compliment the government,” the opposition leader said, adding that in case of disturbances and public discontent which will likely take place in the future, the opposition would not be to blame.
The announcement came a few days after a canceled meeting between Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov and leaders of the united opposition. The so-called “negotiations meeting” was supposed to gather representatives of the government, led by Babanov, and several opposition leaders to discuss “issues of national importance.”
At the last moment, the opposition leaders decided not to show up, claiming that the prime minister broke an agreement to allow live broadcasting of the meeting on national television.
The united opposition movement Just Future, which is comprised of the largest parliamentary political party Ata Zhurt, the parties Butun Kyrgyzstan and Party of Communists and other minor parties and movements, conducted its first anti-government rally on March 1 in Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan. They gathered 15,000-20,000 protesters and demanded the dismissal of the cabinet of ministers and the formation of a new “government of professionals.”
Other demands included a return to the Constitution of 1993, that the organizers of the June 2010 interethnic conflict and the April 2010 events are punished, and the dismissal of the country's prosecutor general.
The second and third opposition rallies were conducted in Batken on March 31 and Jalalabad on April 10, gathering 1,000-2,000 and 5,000-8,000 protesters respectively. Despite the comparatively successful “demonstration of muscles” in southern Kyrgyzstan, the opposition movement has failed to organize similar public protests in the northern cities of Talas and Kara-Balta.
Most political analysts claim that these events clearly show that the opposition is regionally based and lacks public support at the national level. According to Kyrgyz analyst Valentin Bogarytev, opposition leaders enjoy the support of their small homelands, which explains why they held rallies in oblast centers and not the capital city.
Prime Minister Babanov stated that there are no serious reasons why the government should resign: “I see only the results of the first 100 days of the government's work,” the prime minister said. According to Babanov, the current government is working on reforms that have not been conducted for the last twenty years. Regarding the opposition claims, he noted that his opponents are not ready for open dialogue and are only interested in “cabinet posts.”
Many political analysts agree with the prime minister’s opinion and contend that rallies and other forms of political protesting are lately being used by political forces seeking to gain personal benefits as instruments of political blackmail against opponents. Politicians pay protesters to take part in demonstrations, thus providing locals with an additional source of income.
Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev has displayed a restrained attitude to the protests, stating that rallies are signs of normal political processes in a democratic country. According to the president, the opposition is entitled to organizing public protests without undermining public order. At the same time, Atambayev admitted that some opposition statements which call for a forceful change of government are illegal.
Furthermore, local analysts contend that the opposition’s attempts to artificially present the overall situation in the country as “unbearable” cause bewilderment among the wider public. According to Mars Sariev, the protesting mood has already “burned out” in Kyrgyzstan. There are some signs of public discontent towards the government's initiatives, however, they are insignificant. Therefore, the recent opposition rallies do not reflect the real public mood in the country, according to Sariev.
Analysts explain the public and governmental indignation with the opposition’s “loud behavior” by the opposition’s failure to present an alternative economic development program. The opposition’s unfounded criticism of government initiatives without offering alternative options has further discredited the opposition leaders in the eyes of the public. Realizing its inability to mobilize masses at this moment, the opposition decided to take a break and wait for better days.
(This article was first published in the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst (www.cacianalyst.org), a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center.)