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Kyrgyz President Pooh-Poohs Western-Style Democracy

President Kyrmanbek Bakiev speaks at the pro-government congress on March 23.
(RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev used a major speech ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Tulip Revolution to suggest that Western-style democracy may no longer be suitable for Kyrgyzstan.

His appraisal comes as public criticism -- including by the exiled former president who was ousted in the 2005 unrest -- accuses Bakiev of nepotism and other tactics that compromise the legacy of the largely bloodless transition.

Speaking at a "kurultai," or assembly of the people, Bakiev said on March 23 that ideas from the "last century" -- such as democracy based on elections and individual human rights -- may no longer be the correct path.

"In today's world the drawbacks of the model of democracy that was accepted in the last century and that was based mainly on elections and human rights is being actively discussed," Bakiev said. "But, unfortunately today there is no certainty that such models are suitable for all countries and peoples."

Bakiev suggested Kyrgyzstan now needs a "consultative democracy" that has "deep roots in the traditions of our people."

Kurultai Klatch

He pointed to the kurultai -- which he convened personally -- as an example of a more traditional form of democracy for Kyrgyzstan's people.

But he also said that human rights would be defended in Kyrgyzstan and that the authorities would fulfill its international obligations as concerns human rights.

The assembly was meant to heal the rifts that have developed in the country over controversial government policies.

It came amid vocal opposition to Bakiev's rule and clashes between opposition activists and police, almost five years to the day since protests toppled his predecessor, Askar Akaev.

Bakiev became president shortly after Akaev fled in the face of protests around Kyrgyzstan against parliamentary elections that many in the country felt were rigged.

Last week, several thousand opposition supporters rallied in Bishkek and the northeastern town of Naryn, airing wide-ranging grievances from high energy prices to a government clampdown on independent media.

Panned By Predecessor

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, former leader Akaev suggested Bakiev and his government would do well to heed those criticisms.

"I think today's [Bakiev-led] kurultai will not result in very much, because all the participants are preselected and, of course, they will support the authorities," Akaev said. "I think people expressed their demands during [last week's opposition rally]. If they [authorities] implement all the demands, Kyrgyzstan will have a future. If not, then there's no future for Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyzstan will not exit from the crisis. I'm really concerned about it."

Bakiev has pledged on numerous occasions to fight corruption and nepotism and make the country's media entirely independent. But several independent newspapers have been suspended, and two journalists were killed last year while others have been beaten.

Bakiev has appointed one of his brothers as head of presidential security and his son to chair a newly created agency in charge of economic development.

Bakiev also changed the structure of the government late last year and is expecting the parliament, packed with his supporters from the ruling Ak-Jol People's Party, to approve necessary amendments to the constitution.

written by Bruce Pannier and Andy Heil based on reports from Janyl Chytyrbaeva, Ainura Asankojeva, Kubat Chekirov, Musa Murataliev, and Zamira Kojobaeva of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

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