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Top U.S. Official: 'Arab Spring' Scenario Not Likely Coming To Central Asia

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Robert Blake
WASHINGTON -- A top U.S. State Department official says the economic and political characteristics of countries in Central Asia make it unlikely for an "Arab Spring"-like wave of popular uprisings to emerge there in the near future.

Testifying before the U.S. Helsinki Commission in Washington on May 11, Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said reasons include less unemployment in Central Asia than in Egypt and Tunisia, the fact that Central Asian countries have had less exposure to liberal democratic traditions than North Africa and the Middle East, and the lack of meaningful political opposition in most of the region.

He also noted the tightly restricted media environment in Central Asia and low Internet penetration.

Blake said the case of Kyrgyzstan, however, and the establishment of a parliamentary republic there, is a source of "optimism" that democratic reform can come to the region.

-- Richard Solash