The Long Road to Democracy: The Case of Kyrgyzstan
In the 29 years the Kyrgyz Republic has been an independent country, it has seen three movements that have led to sudden regime change and only one peaceful transition of presidential power via election. The most recent display of this unplanned transition of power occurred in October 2020, when felon Sadyr Japarov seized power after a series of riots in Bishkek. Despite the precedent of elite overthrow of the government, the people of Kyrgyzstan are still seeking democratization. In the words of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, “Democracy must ripen internally within the depths of society itself ... [and] integrate [itself] into [the] conscience of [a] people. Only in this case will it take firm root in the public conscience" (Akaev 2004). Unfortunately, these democratic ideals cannot take root with the current method of elite appeasement, a tactic that some Kyrgyz presidents have employed to diminish the chance of elite-led revolution. Through the process of inadvertently empowering and simultaneously squandering elite influence, Kyrgyzstan has not allowed democracy to develop organically among its entire electorate over a sustained amount of time, and instead is being pushed towards revolution consistently be elites in the country. This presentation aims to highlight presidential actions and elite reactions to them in order to better understand how democratization can better take place.