News Digest

Oct 11, 2020

Media Digest

Oct 11, 2020


Biweekly CAW Media Digest.
The Digest provides updates on
the most recent developments in Central Asia.
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September 28 - October 11
Kyrgyzstan - Elections, Protests, Power Vacuum
Following the mass resignations of Kyrgyz government officials amidst popular protests, RFE/RL's Qishloq Ovozi blog highlights the primary actors now involved in the conversation. Several of these prominent figures lead political parties involved in the disputed election, while others have previously served in government or have recently been freed from captivity by protestors.
Beyond the political jockeying for power, the popular backlash to perceived electoral fraud is being powered by Kyrgyzstan's women and youth. Muted group theory can explain how and why the protests are a symptom of intergenerational conflict as well as Kyrgyzstan's patriarchal society.
Disgraced politician Sadyr Japarov has been announced as the new head of the Kyrgyz government, despite a criminal record and rump parliament. His unexpected ascension into the political spotlight has been powered by intimidation and violence on the part of his supporters demonstrating in Bishkek.
Presidents of the other four Central Asian countries have made a joint statement regarding the unrest in Kyrgyzstan. The relatively anodyne statement stressed the importance of Kyrgyzstan within a regional security system, while pledging support for the people of Kyrgyzstan in their attempts to resolve their domestic situation.
Given the potential knock-on effects of the protests for regional neighbors, CABAR interviewed local experts about how other Central Asian governments will react. Views differed on whether the unrest can cross borders, but public sentiment and tension between ethnic groups across the region needs to be closely monitored.
Meanwhile, Belarusians have seen the Kyrgyz protests as a successful "revolution in one day." The seizure of public buildings and scattered violence on the part of protestors provides an example for other similar movements.
Former Kyrgyz Ambassador to the US and Canada Kadyr Toktogulov writes that Western countries should support Kyrgyzstan in this moment of crisis. He examines the protests themselves, while also highlighting a role for the United States as a liberal, human rights-oriented alternative to powerful regional powerbrokers like Russia and China.
Regional Cooperation
Kyrgyzstan's ongoing reticence to the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project might be changing with Russian involvement. While it is unclear exactly what the introduction of Russia into a 3+1 format will bring to the project, increased funding might make the difference in moving planning forward.
USAID has announced a new $24.5 million regional water program for Central Asia. The mission will revolve around combating environmental challenges while strengthening regional cooperation on the often-divisive issue of resource management.
Local Economies
New Kazakh legislation will further amend anti-corruption laws surrounding gifts and accountability. The government has a powerful incentive to reform while chasing Western investment, but the ruling elite and government administrators have a long history of corruption and nepotism.
While Tajik incumbent Rahmon Emomali is expected to win another consecutive term, the country is in dire need of economic reform. COVID-19 has devastated an already tottering country, and Emomali is seen as a spent force in terms of delivering stability.
With Central Asian economies expected to contract in the face of the pandemic, recent improved performance will be wiped out. A World Bank report recommends that the best way to survive and bounce back is for policymakers to focus on their human capital.
An Oxus Society report tracks patterns of dissent and protest across Eurasia. While COVID-19-related issues make up a large portion of complaints, protests have also revolved around freedom of speech, land usage, and other more long-running issues.

CAW Team