Saturday, April 01, 2006

Another Day, Another Protest...

I got the usual warnings from the British Embassy, there was the usual gathering of military and police on the main street and the usual group of disgruntled folk massed outside the government building. Oh, the people who are there change each time, but the reason is just a variation on a theme: either the government are letting someone run for parliament who they think shouldn’t or they’re not letting someone run who they think should.

In this case it was the latter. This time it was Ryspek Akmatbaev, who has impeccable credentials to be a member of parliament: he was just recently acquitted of murder and, while trying not to judge a book by its cover, looks like a two-bit hoodlum. Apparently he couldn’t run for election because he didn’t disclose a previous criminal conviction and he hadn’t lived in Kyrgyzstan permanently for the last five years; but by golly, he’s not going to let a pesky thing like the law stand in his way…

Most of these guys just want to set up their little criminal fiefdoms in some town in Kyrgyzstan, and the quickest way is to get into political office. They throw a few hundred dollars at the townsfolk, promise them a good meal and free drink if they agree to turn up in the capital and make some noise. They’re hoping that the government is so weak and ineffectual that they might actually agree to their demands rather than have to deal with such visible signs of civil disturbance…and hey, they may be right. The president was so scared, he actually came out and dignified this mob with his presence and gave a little conciliatory speech.

I don’t know what the future holds for Kyrgyzstan if someone like this can have the government shaking in its boots. This time the crowd finally dispersed, but they threatened to be back – and to be armed – if they didn’t get their way. And even if it isn’t them, it will be someone else with the bright idea of bringing a rent-a-mob to the capital to see what they can squeeze out of the government. The future isn’t looking that bright for President Bakiev.

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