Kyrgyzstan : reshaping elite power structures and other challenges of democratization



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Kyrgyzstan has experienced two regime changes since 2005. The first, called the ‘Tulip Revolution’, which was modeled on ‘color’ revolutions aimed at democratization in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, changed the arrangement of elites in the power structure, but did nothing to weaken the vertical presidential system of power that perpetuated an unstable regime cycle. The second ‘April’ revolution in 2010 brought the creation of a parliamentary system with broadly decentralized power and drastically curtailed the powers of the president. Parliamentary elections in October 2010 created a broad representative body that has improved stability despite the difficulties of elite adjustment to parliamentary dynamics. Successful presidential elections in October 2011 further reinforced the legitimacy of the new system of government. Despite considerable progress, a deep divide between northern and southern elites, pervasive corruption, economic collapse and ethnic turbulence exacerbated by decades of unchecked nationalism all threaten the consolidation of Kyrgyzstan’s nascent democracy. Each of these problems will pose a significant challenge to the political elite, who now have a shared responsibility for the success or failure of policy. How elites react to this challenge will determine whether Kyrgyzstan will continue to gradually consolidate its democracy, or revert to a centralized power structure that has proved inherently unstable.