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Interview: Ousted Leader Says Kyrgyzstan Now 'Island Of Criminality,' Not Democracy

Askar Akaev: Today there is no democracy in Kyrgyzstan.
Askar Akaev: Today there is no democracy in Kyrgyzstan.
MOSCOW -- Kyrgyzstan today marks the five-year anniversary of the "Tulip" or "People's" Revolution, in which widespread protests over rigged parliamentary elections culminated on March 24, 2005, with the ouster of the country's president, Askar Akaev. Today, it is Akaev's successor, Kurmanbek Bakiev, who is fending off accusations that he has strayed from the democratic path.

Akaev is today a lecturer in physics at Moscow State University. Musa Murataliev, Moscow correspondent for RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, spoke with Akaev at his home in Moscow to ask him his opinion of the country he was forced to leave.

RFE/RL: Mr. Akaev, five years have passed since power changed in Kyrgyzstan. Many consider March 24 to be the day you were forced out due to a revolution. What is your opinion on those events today?

Askar Akaev:
I expressed my opinion of the events of March 24 on the first day, that it was a coup d'etat. Some political adventurers, together with extremist leaders of the opposition, organized it. The Kyrgyz people now see the results of this.

Kyrgyzstan was -- for good or bad -- developed in a democratic way, but today democracy is completely destroyed in the country. Today there is no democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

WATCH: Akaev talks about nepotism under his successor:

Interview With Askar Akaev (1)
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RFE/RL: What is your opinion of the current political situation in Kyrgyzstan?

I am a son of the Kyrgyz people, and Kyrgyzstan is my fatherland. I am so looking forward to returning to Kyrgyzstan, although I temporarily live in Russia. I'm deeply concerned about the life of the Kyrgyz people. You see how intense the situation is in almost every aspect of life in Kyrgyzstan. The economy is on the brink of disaster.
Only five years ago Kyrgyzstan was a country developing in a truly democratic way. And all this has been destroyed.

(Akaev went on to chide some of the current opposition figures who were instrumental in toppling him, yet who now find themselves opposed to the man they helped install as president, Bakiev.)

One of the opposition leaders, Almaz Atambaev, has called today's regime a criminal one. When Atambaev was in power, he and another of today's opposition leaders, Roza Otunbaeva, praised Kurmanbek Bakiev as a revolutionary leader. They compared him with Fidel Castro.

But today, when they have lost their positions and are not in power, they again want to lead the opposition. They all were together with those criminal leaders to change the regime in Kyrgyzstan.

(Akaev claimed that President Bakiev removed people like Atambaev and Otunbaeva from power because they were too ambitious and represented a challenge to his rule. Bakiev's regime, Akaev said, has destroyed the image of Kyrgyzstan and the morale of the country's people.)

Today's regime still uses criminals in order to beat and intimidate journalists, to kill politicians who can be potential competitors. That is why Kyrgyzstan is considered a "failed state" today [in the eyes of the] world, because it's an "island of criminality" (as opposed to an "island of democracy," as it was known early in Akaev's rule).

Only five years ago Kyrgyzstan was a country developing in a truly democratic way. And all this has been destroyed. I think this was a major loss and blow to morale for the Kyrgyz people.

WATCH: Akaev talks about what makes Kyrgyzstan a "failed state" in international eyes:

Interview With Askar Akaev (2)
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Obeying The People

RFE/RL: President Bakiev recently called a kurultai, or people's gathering, to offer his supporters and opponents a chance to air their views. The opposition, however, rejected the invitation to attend the gathering and instead held their own meeting last week. What are your thoughts on this?

I think today's kurultai will not result in very much because all the participants are preselected and, of course, they will support the authorities. I think people expressed their demands during the previous [opposition] kurultai.

If [authorities] implement all the demands, Kyrgyzstan will have a future. If not, there's no future for Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan will not escape the crisis. I'm really concerned about this.

(Akaev suggests that Bakiev's convening of a kurultai is a means of grabbing unlimited power while avoiding any legislative process.)

Concerning today's kurultai, I think the government wants the people to support the khanate rule and then through parliament to enter it into the constitution. I think they have such plans. I think it should be prevented because the Kyrgyz people, as I have said before, have their own democratic traditions coming from their history, and we should keep them.

WATCH: Akaev talks about that fateful day in 2005 and the "destruction" of Kyrgyzstan's democratic development:

Interview With Askar Akaev (3)
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Aksy Events

RFE/RL: On March 17, Kyrgyzstan marked the eighth anniversary of the events in Aksy, in which six demonstrators were killed when police opened fire. That event, many observers believe today, triggered the revolution of 2005. What was your responsibility for the Aksy events?

The Aksy events left pain in my heart. Since I was the president of Kyrgyzstan at that time, I am responsible for everything that happened in my country [at that time]. I talked about it on March 17. I said it before and I will do it in the future. I have never run away from responsibility. You are the president, you have to take all responsibility for the events in your state.

At that time, I was away from the country on a foreign visit. When I returned, I was looking forward to seeing the prime minister [Bakiev], but found only [Deputy Prime Minister] Nikolai Tanaev. I said, "Nikolai Timofeevich, good evening!" He said, "Askar Akaevich, it's not a good evening." And he told me about the events in Aksy.

I asked about the prime minister. [Tanaev] said that Bakiev left a letter for the president and went to a resort in Jalal-Abad, because [Bakiev] was tired.

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