Michael PITSON, Marat DEMEUOV
ALMATY, March 23
(Specially for THE GLOBE)
I know the melody, I know words.
I personally know the authors.
They are secretly swilling wine,
Publicly propagating water.
I. Political neophytes
New Central Asian states and Kazakhstan, now all called Central Asia (CA) in political science, often misjudge their relative status. They possess various complexities and mentalities that are characteristic of political neophytes; primarily in the way that they have a traditional inferiority complex.
People once said of Canada: too much territory and not enough history history. Obviously, everyone wants to be a great nation and to have a lot of history. In this regard nobody wishes himself "too modern" and everyone seeks longstanding national heroes to be myths of "national antiquity" for these so-called title nations of CA.
However at present these nations are very young and this is not a bad thing. Yet Central Asian countries think just the opposite. For example, the population of Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan are not only Uzbeks and Kazakhs, but the other population groups are being granted a "part" of the history of the 19th to 20th centuries, such as the period of Russian Imperial �obscurantism�. �Grey History� and �legends of extreme antiquity� belong to �aborigines�. History is being divided according to the principle: �mine�, �ours�, and �not yours.� There may be different tactical and contradictory aims in this division process, but on the whole perhaps that is the purpose of �historical conceptions�, which can be repeatedly hastily "prepared" according to formulas.
Reference to historical precedents, according to official doctrines, is supposed to compensate �sovereign's inferiority complexes�, to bring up feelings of ethnic identity in the population and somehow to confirm a continuation of the state in the region. References to historical uniqueness are interpreted in a form suitable for the authorities, giving them the freedom to create a "voluntary" understanding of the current requirements, character and limits of democratic institutions: nobody verbally denies democracy, but everyone takes a chance to interpret it in a way most suitable for himself through the use of analogies and ideals. At the same time, it is supposed that specific �national� or �ethnic� models exist.
The majority of the population of Central Asia has no coherent conceptions of what the state and democracy are and what the latter's functions are. The so-called �elite�, including "counter-elite� consider themselves culture-triggers yet actually frequently overestimate the degree of their competence, though they never admit to this.
In Central Asia �people� are characterised by little political activity amongst the rural population and a growing tendency for frustration over political issues in urban areas. The first is officially considered by the authorities as a sign of social stability. The latter is supposedly a signal of potential troubles for those in power. In this respect the Kazakhstani government's decision to create the new capital� �the civil capital� or �the capital for civil servants� - in Astana indicates the regime's unrealised desire to isolate itself from any possible observation and criticism, demonstrating a definite level of subjective pragmatism and the authorities' instinct for self-preservation. Especially from accusations such as profit making from �developing the state�, scandalous incompetence during such �development� and "administrative" and "clan" intrigues.
Everywhere in the community's everyday consciousness, the state is being associated with motherland and the territory. Everywhere bureaucratic clans, or �elite� as they call themselves, are declining to overtly identify themselves with the state due to the fact that, as democratic institutions, even if they are formally established and declared so by constitutions in all CA new countries, they are merely so in name. The so-called "people" are only a manageable passive mass according to Nomenclature perception, and as such have no signs of a civic society, especially considering the fact that they lack feelings of belonging to a homeland. Kazakhstan suffers from this less than countries such as Uzbekistan, for example. We may therefore define the state's image as being virtual, relying on popular expression, which leaves the government removed from the realities and struggles of the daily lives of its population. Thus, the bureaucratic state is being corrupted and does whatever it wants, remaining uncontrolled and able to involve itself in unprofessional and criminal activities.
As �honest people�, the CA state leaders have at least nominally all branches of power, but they are not independent and must answer to the authoritarian leader � the President who manages the state. He has the right to take measures to control any demonstrations criticising legislators and as such, his legislative recommendations are the law de facto with parliamentarians accepting them. Prime examples are decrees which have the force of law, (a particular favourite of Kazakhstani presidents), referring to Parliament's negligence and the hypertrophied role of the authority of presidential apparatus in the legislative and executive power.
Almost everywhere, even in the �Tian Shan Switzerland� of Kyrgyzstan (once that was the naively cherished dream of the President Akaev, the academician), parliaments exist as decorations, giving a cosmetic appearance of legitimate Constitutions and despite innumerable, often contradictory laws, issued by groups close to the President, usually in the presidential administration.
In fact, in the people's consciousness the President personifies the state being a personal guarantor and symbol yet it is only in Philistine mentalities that association of the leader or "master" with positive characteristics, namely those of the state, symbolically "legitimises" people's notions that the leader of the country is the owner of the state.
The danger is that in a weak moment, the "owner" can step aside from the government and the Parliament and is able to conduct a demonstrative �flogging� of a civil servant who is too notable in the community, and to change the staff. The sacramental principle of such regimes is that the guilty and the displeased should always be under personal and force control. The president also able to manage the electoral system and to control election results. He is simultaneously a symbol of the state and the owner and the appropriator of the state. In fact, many functions of the state have been privatised by him and may be used for personal purposes. Constitutional articles regarding safeguarding a President's dignity are composed in such a way that any personal criticism is impossible. They provide a basis to scare and punish, as they provide a function, not of guarding dignity, but to allow an imperial police. The public is regularly reminded of this theme of the President's immunity from criticism, either in the form of direct threat through the media, the closing down of newspapers and TV channels or by conducting "show trials" and arresting supposedly "extreme" people who infringe this law.
Many presidents started their path to give independence to the nation and to create their authoritarian systems not only from the privatisation of assets and in pursuit of personal wealth, but from creating private personal "presidential" guards and appointing close contacts to certain positions. In principle, time has shown that courts, tax bodies and even election commissions can become punitive bodies. In these countries, any function of these organisations can be used to force, to intimidate or even to punish. A particularly striking feature of these new �yanychars� is the ability to scare and liquidate possible opponents, therefore guaranteeing the continuation of the regime of personal power of both the President and his clan. Neither the media nor the community notice routine conflicts within a weak layer of representatives of middle business. Even in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which once were acknowledged by the West as the most "democratic� among the regional authoritarian states, the time of illusions and liberalism has passed. Media are either dependent on the authorities that were pragmatically purchased by those close to power and the semi-official press and TV channels or are afraid to touch the topic of presidential responsibility for the situation in this or that country. According to Kazakhstani law on media, the owner is entitled to supervise all policies on their coverage. Hence, most media are loyal to the government.
Just as both Cezar and his wife were never suspected. All branches of power along with the opposition striving either for the Parliament or for the court are proud to protect their master's impeccability and sadly, "opposition" is often a form of either self-advertising or income.
(To be continued)
By MICHAEL ROTHBART
BISHKEK, March 23
KyrgyzstanProtest demonstrations have continued in principal cities across Kyrgyzstanin the week since the completion of Parliamentary elections on March 12th.In Bishkek, crowds of 1,000 protestors have gathered at the White House andat the Constitutional Court, demanding annulment of several election resultsdecried as fraudulent.The Bishkek protests were initially triggered by the election in Kara-Buura,where Felix Kulov, former Vice-President and leader of the oppositionAr-Namys party failed to win a seat. In a Tuesday press conference, Kulovtold journalists that his supporters had logged over 350 election dayviolations. Key accusations included that voters in polling stations wereforced to show that they had voted for Kulov`s rival, Alumbai Sultanov, andthat many precinct results were routed through the local administration for�number-fixing� before reaching the District Election Commission.During the course of the week, the base of support for the protests hasbroadened, as Kulov`s allies have been joined by other opposition groups and human rights activists. Due to deregistration of opposition candidatesbetween the first and second round, five out of sixteen races in Bishkekwere decided without a run-off election.The number of protests nationwide in recent weeks is a phenomenon unheard ofin this former Soviet country`s nine year history. Although the protestershave at times been confrontational towards police, they have remainednon-violent. Analysts consider this spate of demonstrations among the fewhopeful signs of a growing civil society in the country. Partly because political parties are weak in Kyrgyzstan, most protests have specifically supported a single candidate.During the largest demonstration, last Wednesday, police shut down access tothe center of the city, rerouting traffic and forming human barricades toprevent protestors from reaching the White House. At the ConstitutionalCourt, demonstrators were turned back by police when they attempted todeliver a petition with 13,000 signatures demanding new elections. Concurrent protests, with 700 to 1,000 demonstrators, continue daily outsidethe local government building in Kara-Buura, in Talas Oblast. On Thursday, aprecinct election commission chair in Kara-Buura committed suicide, inapparent response to accusations of rigging the election. Rasul Aitmanbetovwas found dead after hanging himself, with a note denying responsibility forelectoral fraud.In the southern city of Jalal-Abad last week, a crowd of 800 gatheredoutside the governor`s office on two consecutive days, protesting the defeatof candidate Kamchibek Tashiev by the candidate supported by the localadministration, Assistant Mayor Kubanichbek Zholdoshev. In a schemeallegedly perpetrated by Jalal-Abad Mayor Kenenbaev, nearly a thousandballots disappeared before election day, and resurfaced during voting,pre-marked for Zholdoshev.In Bazar-Korgon rayon, irate villagers had blocked the Osh-Bishkek road,Kyrgyzstan`s sole north-south highway, for two days when their hometowncandidate, Ata-Meken Socialist Party leader Omurbek Tekebaev wasderegistered on March 10th. The protests resulted in a Supreme Courtdecision on the night before the election to overturn a lower court decisionand allow the candidate to run. Tekebaev went on to win 61 percent of thevote.Police in Bishkek have reacted by cracking down on protestors, arrestingfive leaders accused of organizing the protests, including a formerpolitical prisoner and a reporter from the national newspaper Respublica.According to human rights activists, police allegedly also detained overnight 47 demonstrators from Talas after they attended the Thursdayprotest. Police spokesmen have denied the charge.Friday evening, an all-night trial began against the accused protestorganizers, beginning with Topchubek Turgunaliev, a former university rectorand political prisoner. Turgunaliev was jailed for three years after he wasfound guilty of slandering President Akaev during the 1995 Presidentialcampaign. In a speech two days before the election, he had said that �ifAkaev wins, he can do so only by falsifying results.�In his hearing, the bespectacled Turgunaliev was represented by deregisteredopposition candidate Daniyar Usenov, chair of the People`s Party (ElBei-Beshara). It soon became apparent that Usenov intended not just todefend Turgunaliev, but to set a precedent on the rights of Kyrgyz citizensto hold peaceful protests.Although the Kyrgyz Constitution grants the freedom to demonstrate,authorities have used a 1988 Soviet law to limit such protests. In the pastweek, police have also charged demonstrators with violations of civil code,such as disturbing the peace and the refusal to obey the orders of a policeofficer.Natalia Ablova, director of the Bureau of Human Rights and Rule of Law,commented during a court recess that the public �is very angry, in differentparts of the country, and so they will demand justice. We`ve had onlypeaceful protests, but if these protests are again suppressed, theprotestors may turn less peaceful.��Instead of creating dialogue, the authorities are now arresting peacefulprotestors. The level of dissatisfaction grows very quickly in suchsituations,� she added.At two in the morning, Turgunaliev was sentenced with a fine of 1,000 som(21 dollars), equivalent to an average monthly wage in Kyrgyzstan. Heimmediately announced that he would take the case to the Supreme Court, andthat he intended to file a suit against Bishkek police for violating hiscivil rights.
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