Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Revolutionary "Reversals"

The "Colored Revolutions" that dominated coverage of the former Soviet region beginning over six years ago have witnessed different kinds of reversals. Indeed, their fifth anniversaries have been cruel reminders that political life has changed less in some parts of the former Soviet Union than one would hope.

The Rose Revolution in Georgia was led by Mikheil Saakashvili and other opposition leaders who agreed to align with him as the best option for ousting the corrupt regime of Eduard Shevardnadze. Saakashvili was known at the time to act rashly - witness his tactical differences with his erstwhile allies Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze while the Rose Revolution was unfolding. Nearly five years after the Rose Revolution, Saakashvili's rash behavior led to crackdowns on the opposition and contributed to the August 2008 war with Russia.

In Ukraine, former President Viktor Yushchenko's ineffective tenure and his intense personal animosity toward Yuliya Tymoshenko helped to weaken the forces behind the Orange Revolution. Tymoshenko herself is not guiltless, having pursued opportunistic policies and antagonistic tactics. Meanwhile Viktor Yanukovych adopted a more disciplined and softer image, in part due to his association with an American PR firm, and succeeded in securing a legitimate victory in 2010. Although this "reversal" came through an election process that was generally free and fair, recent developments raise concerns about a return to pre-revolutionary ways (notably the manner in which the parliamentary coalition was formed outside statutory and constitutional bounds - even if the packed court upholds the decision).

Kyrgyzstan's so-called "Tulip Revolution" was clearly different from its supposed kin. The 2005 ouster of Askar Akayev did not elevate political elite who favored transparency and the rule of law. Rather, Kurmanbek Bakiyev changed the patronage networks that enjoyed access to power and wealth. Kyrgyzstan may have appeared to be more democratic than its neighbors, but the standards are low in the neighborhood. If he has been ousted today as some news sources are reporting, he has befallen a similar fate as his predecessor five years ago. UPDATE: The website for Kabar (a Kyrgyz news agency) is responding slowly, as one would anticipate. But, it is also reporting the opposition's claims of government's resignation.

State of Emergency in Kyrgyzstan

Conflict has been brewing in Kyrgyzstan, and it took an ugly turn today. While all of the facts on the ground are not clear, clashes between protesters and government forces have led to the declaration of a state of emergency (CNN and Lenta).