Kyrgyzstan. Where is it? What is it?
President: post vacant (Kurmanbek BAKIYEV resigned on 15 April 2010)
Prime Minister: Roza OTUNBAYEVA (interim president, provisional head of government)
Interim foreign minister: Ruslan KAZAKBAYEV (member of the provisional government)
Area: 199,900 sq km
Population: 5.43 million (2009 estimate)
Other main cities: Osh, Jalal-Abad
Official languages: Kyrgyz and Russian
Other languages: Uzbek (spoken by 13.6% of the population)
A former Soviet republic, Kyrgyzstan became independent following the Soviet Union’s breakup and adopted a presidential form of government. Its first president, Askar Akayev, was elected in October 1991. He won the country’s first multiparty elections in 1995 and was reelected in 2000. The regime’s increasingly repressive tendencies triggered opposition demonstrations. The “Tulip Revolution” toppled Akayev on 24 March 2005 and a provisional government led by Kurmanbek Bakiyev took over. The former prime minister became president in July 2005. Another popular uprising brought the Bakiyev government down five years later, in April 2010. Until then, Kyrgyzstan had been getting relatively good marks in democracy and respect for human rights, but the events of the past few months have underscored the vulnerability of a fragile regime and society that is divided and impatient for living conditions to improve. The social and economic situation has deteriorated rapidly in the past five years and disenchantment with the Bakiyev regime became widespread. Several members of the political opposition were arrested in March 2010. Popular discontent crystallised in the following month’s revolt, which left an official toll of 84 dead and 1,600 injured. It ended with the fall of the government and Bakiyev’s flight into exile and resignation. The opposition formed a provisional government led by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva. Its first few months in office were marked by turmoil. In the south of the country, Bakiyev’s former power base and a bastion of drug-trafficking, tension between the Kyrgyz population and the sizable Uzbek ethnic minority came to a heard at the start of June. Serious violence broke out on 10 June. Pogroms launched against the Uzbek population were described by French human rights ambassador François Zimeray as a “crime against humanity.” According to official provisional figures, the clashes between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz populations left a toll of nearly 300 dead and 400,000 displaced. The authorities recognised that the real figures could be ten times higher. Several constitutions have been debated and adopted since 2006. The latest was adopted in a referendum on 28 June by more than 90 per cent of the votes. It transfers some of the presidential powers to parliament and has revived hope that Kyrgyzstan could recover a degree of stability and become a real central Asian democracy. The 28 June vote also confirmed Otunbayeva as interim president, a post she officially assumed on 3 July and will hold until the end of 2011. She must now form a new government which will probably not include many well-known political figures because parliamentary elections are due to be held in October.