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Kyrgyzstan: Revolution Anniversary Highlights Political Failures

President Kurmanbek Bakiev (file photo) (RFE/RL) March 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan marks the second anniversary on March 24 of what some have dubbed the "People's Revolution" or "Tulip Revolution" in that country, when demonstrators chased long-time President Askar Akaev from power in 2005.

The images from two years ago are still clear in many people's minds -- thousands gathered outside the government building in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek.

Members of the crowd stormed the government building as police stood by and watched. By then, President Akaev was outside the country. Protests that had begun a month earlier -- initially against elections that many felt were rigged to put Akaev loyalists into parliament -- had expanded into anti-Akaev rallies.

MORE: RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service talked to former President Askar Akaev about his ouster.

Jubilant crowds celebrated, a previously embattled political opposition prepared to assume leadership of the country. And media in many countries touted the change of power in Kyrgyzstan as the latest in a series of "color" revolutions to oust authoritarian governments in the former Soviet Union.

Hope Fades?

It was a period of hope for Kyrgyzstan's people. The dominance of the Akaev family was broken, and many people hoped new leadership would benefit the country.

Two years later, there are still questions about whether the ouster marked a change for the better.

Bakiev delivered a televised speech late today about the "People's Revolution" as Kyrgyzstan prepared to mark the anniversary.

Bakiev told the country that he supports the idea of constitutional reforms.

"All of us, including the opposition and the parliament, were led by emotion in November and December."

He blamed the highly charged political atmosphere for the constitutional maneuvering of late 2006. He also expressed a desire to "correct [those] mistakes" and put proposed constitutional changes to a public vote.

"Yes, all of us, including the opposition and the parliament, were led by emotion in November and December," Bakiev said. "Now we need to correct such mistakes. Now I am ready to urgently establish a working group to prepare new amendments and changes [in] the constitution, and to send an agreed and checked version of the constitution to the parliament to consider it -- and, if the need arises, even to put it into a referendum."

Waiting For Action

The president's optimism is not universal.

The postrevolutionary leadership set itself the goals of constitutional reform and improving the economy.

In november, Bakiev also faced demands to step down (RFE/RL)

But the leader of Kyrgyzstan's Democratic Movement Party, Jypar Jeksheev, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that pledges for constitutional reforms have not been met.

"The goal set before the people was not achieved -- and that main goal is constitutional reform," Jeksheev said recently. "Now the authorities -- in the person of the president and the representatives of the opposition -- should implement constitutional reform. The is more important than creating a coalition government."

Lawmaker Kamchybek Tashiev agreed with Jeksheev's appraisal of the situation.

"I think that a people's revolution happened, but the people's revolution did not provide the expected results," Tashiev said. "The main goal -- changing the state structure to the advantage of the interests of the common people -- was not achieved. We changed the constitution twice, but both constitutions, in the final analysis, did not answer the demands and interests of the people."

Campaign Promises

Bakiev spoke frequently about constitutional reform after the revolution -- especially while he was campaigning for the presidency in the special election of July 2005. But after winning that vote, Bakiev increasingly spoke in favor of delaying constitutional reform. And he openly opposed changing the constitution to strengthen the role of the legislative branch.

Street demonstrations in November 2006 forced Bakiev to sign a compromise constitution that reduced executive powers in favor of the legislature. But Bakiev allies in parliament subsequently amended that document (in December), restoring much of the power that Bakiev had signed away.

Legislator Karganbek Samakov blamed the reluctance to change on a leadership that is still entrenched in old ideas. Samakov cites the example of Georgia -- the scene of the first of the so-called "color" revolutions (known as the Rose Revolution) -- to illustrate his point.

"Nothing has changed in the life of the average [Kyrgyz] person," Samakov told RFE/RL. "Take, for example, Georgia; there was a revolution there as well. There, young [people] came to power, [and] the budget of the country increased threefold. I had great hopes for the new authorities [in Kyrgyzstan], but unfortunately I was disappointed. I think that power needs to be handed over to young reformers, young people who have a new way of thinking."

History could be coming full circle. Opposition groups are calling for President Bakiev to leave office, complaining that he has not fulfilled the ideals that sparked the events of two years ago. Demonstrations are being organized for early April, and the demands are familiar: constitutional reform, eliminating corruption, and an end to perceived rule by one family -- in this case Bakiev's. Opponents want an early presidential election.

Many of the opposition leaders calling for the early election were once Bakiev supporters -- most notably, his former Prime Minister Feliks Kulov.

(Kubatbek Otorbaev and Tynchtykbek Tchoroev of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

Understanding Kyrgyzstan

Understanding Kyrgyzstan

Workers preparing for celebrations of the constitutional compromise in Bishkek on November 9 (RFE/RL)

A STABLE FOUNDATION? On November 9, RFE/RL's Washington office hosted a briefing featuring RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service Director Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev and RFE/RL analyst Daniel Kimmage.


Listen to the complete discussion (about 80 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media


Parliament Adopts Constitution Curtailing Presidential Powers

Crisis Deepens After President Proposes Constitutional Changes

Bishkek Prepares For Large Opposition Rally

Economic Reforms Seem Stalled

Photo Gallery Of November 9 Protests

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