While the results of presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan have not drastically changed the domestic political landscape, in comparison to Kazakhstan’s parliamentary “elections”, the overall socio-political environment in Kyrgyzstan offers some hope to Central Asia.
On January 10, Sadyr Japarov was catapulted from a prison cell into the presidential office in Kyrgyzstan by capturing close to 80% of the votes.
Courtesy of a third overthrow of a government by the people of Kyrgyzstan since 2005.
The primary difference between the political processes in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is that in the former the political system has been established by an ex-communist boss Nursultan Nazarbayev.
He converted Soviet Kazakhstan into a family-run kleptocracy.
In 2019, Nazarbayev resigned from the presidency, declared himself a lifelong chairman of the Security Council and appointed an ex-Soviet bureaucrat Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as his successor.
It should be noted that Nazarbayev was one of the few communist chiefs of the ex-Soviet Muslim republics who opposed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
His loyalty to Moscow always took primacy in foreign policy.
The people of Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, overthrew the Soviet era leadership of Askar Akayev in 2005 and managed to cleanse the political scene from ex-Soviet bureaucrats.
This event granted the Kyrgyz people a high degree of confidence as they became the first nation in Central Asia to unseat an autocratic regime inherited from the Soviet era.
The spontaneous revolts of 2010 and 2020 once again confirmed the Kyrgyz masses as political king makers.
No regime assuming power in Bishkek can afford to ignore the people.
This is a unique phenomenon for Central Asia.
Being surrounded by despotic regimes, the Kyrgyz experiment is often put down by the propaganda machinery of the neighboring regimes as an undesired model riddled with instability.
The ability of the Kyrgyz masses to play a significant political role in their country’s future cultivated a political culture of public accountability.
No matter how and who comes to power, it will be very difficult to disqualify the Kyrgyz people from the political equation of the country.
The latest political processes in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan also reflect the reality that Russia remains the primary external player.
During the election campaign, Kyrgyzstan’s Japarov made sure to repeatedly stress that Moscow is Kyrgyzstan’s strategic partner.
Further, no serious political grouping in Kyrgyzstan has ever called for the closure of Russia’s military airbase in the country.