Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Kyrgyzstan – dictator overthrown

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A mass uprising starting in Talaz rapidly spread to Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, last week. Demonstrators defied the bullets of the riot police to overthrow the hated regime of president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who fled to the south of the former Soviet republic.

More than 80 opposition protesters were gunned down and a further 400 wounded but this did not stop them from seizing weapons from the police and then storming government buildings.

By CWI reporters

Opposition MPs declared an ‘interim government’. This body says it will remain in charge of the country for six months during which time a new constitution will be written and the repressive policies of Bakiyev reversed.

President Bakiyev came to power just five years ago as a result of the ‘Tulip revolution’, when the pro-capitalist opposition, resting on the huge discontent of the Kyrghiz masses over the effects of neo-liberal policies, organised a mass protest movement to overthrow the then president Akiyev.

Commenting on the events at that time, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI, the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) said: “While the ‘power of the street’ is enough to topple governments, in itself it is not enough to establish an alternative government that will be capable of ending the corruption and poverty which grips this region. In Kyrgyzstan, all that has happened is that Akiyev has been forced to flee whilst his former loyal lieutenants have returned to power”.

This prediction has been borne out. Bakiyev soon fell out with his allies. Many of today’s opposition leaders were originally in his government.

Amongst the main complaints of the masses is the fact that corruption and family cronyism have grown even stronger under Bakiyev.

The country is now amongst the top 20 in the world for corruption. Bakiyev’s brother, for example, was head of the security police and his son head of the central agency for Development, Investment and Innovation, which has recently taken control of the main shareholding in the ‘Kyrgyzalten’ gold mine. This company accounts for 40% of the country’s industrial production!

A recent amendment to the constitution, in effect, made the presidency a hereditary position.

The average monthly wage is only $30-50 and yet, this year, the government announced a doubling of electricity prices and a five to ten fold increase in heating costs. Endemic poverty is the driving force behind the uprising.

System change

There should be no illusions about these opposition leaders. A Atambaev, leader of the ‘Social Democratic Party’, was Bakiyev’s prime minister until 2007. He gained notoriety during the crushing of a protest demonstration by riot police, claiming the protests were “sheep led into battle by a goat!” He is one of the richest people in Kazakhstan.

The new head of government is Roza Otunbayeva, foreign minister under Akiyev, an ally of Bakiyev during the Tulip Revolution.

They talk about Bakiyev conducting an economic and social policy against the interests of the people, but, in reality, these opposition leaders are angry because, following the struggle for power that took place following the victory of the Tulip Revolution, they lost out.

A mass left wing party of workers and poor people should urgently be built. Instead of substituting one pro-capitalist president with another, a workers’ government is needed, with a socialist programme so that capitalism can be replaced by a democratically organised planned economy. Only in this way can the economic crisis be overcome.

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