Akayev Is Criticized for Heavy-Handed Rule; Country Faces Period of Uncertainty Because of Economic, Political woes.(WORLD)(BRIEFING: WESTERN ASIA)
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The International Crisis Group, a private, multinational organization based in Brussels, has staff members on five continents working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and contain conflict. Its projects and methods can be viewed on the Internet at www.intl-crisis-group.org.
In a recent statement, ICG's Asia program director, Robert Templer, noted that Kyrgyzstan's government has been astounded at the scale of this year's popular discontent in the country.
"But the ruling elite has lost touch with the majority of the population, and the increasingly autocratic behavior of President Askar Akayev is fueling unrest," he said. "Long-term stability remains under threat unless underlying political and economic problems are resolved. Many people were also emboldened by these events, and demonstrations will likely be renewed."
Following are excerpts, with minor changes, of the ICG's analysis from a recent press release:
"Kyrgyzstan is entering a period of political uncertainty. President Akayev's term comes to an end in 2005, and he has stated that he will not contest the election. But he has no obvious successor, and there is an increasing concentration of power around him, his family and close colleagues. ...
"International attention was [previously] rarely focused on Central Asia, but since September 2001 the region has suddenly registered on policy-makers' agendas. Nearly 2,000 U.S. and Coalition troops are now located at Manas Airport near Bishkek, as part of the forces active in Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan is playing a key strategic role in the region. Stability in this country is now of fundamental concern to the international community but, since early 2002, it has declined sharply.
"The leadership has taken an increasingly authoritarian line toward the opposition, perhaps believing that the U.S. presence gave it more leeway. A popular deputy, Azimbek Beknazarov, was arrested in January 2002, and several opposition newspapers were closed. …