Ripe Environment for More Democratic Revolutions
** The stage is set for continued democratic revolutions
in the former Soviet Bloc Countries of Central Asia. **
The discontent that led to political change in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan is present in other FSU countries. In many states, citizens are tired of confronting rampant corruption, repression and economic stagnation on a daily basis, and are becoming more restive. At the same time, political leaders appear to be increasingly reliant on authoritarian methods as they respond to signs of discontent.
In Uzbekistan, where there is virtually no space for dissent, the socio-political environment is explosive, as the Andijan events in May underscored.. Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s reliance on force to contain opposition is precisely the wrong response in such a febrile environment and is bound to generate far more alarming problems.
The upcoming elections in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are attracting considerable attention, as these ballots will test the authorities’ assertions that the elections in the respective countries will be free, fair and otherwise meet international standards. In these cases, the burden for holding genuinely competitive elections falls on the shoulders of the regimes that currently dominate political life, and whose track records concerning democratization have been generally poor.
For the upcoming elections in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the signs are not promising. In recent months, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has advanced measures that reduce political competition, including the imposition of restrictions on rights to assembly. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
In Azerbaijan, where past elections have been marred by serious irregularities and fraud, President Ilham Aliyev’s administration has done little that would suggest that it is prepared to allow a freely and fairly contested election process for the country’s planned parliamentary ballot in November.
It is crucial that the United States and European Union [along with other interested states] continue their investments in the future success of democratization initiatives in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
But they must also prepare for the more complex challenges presented by other static and unreformed FSU states. Given the high level of frustration that already exists among the population in so many of these countries, this suggests that far more unpredictable and potentially volatile transitions are in the offing.