Friday, July 24, 2009

"He Could Have Easily Been Given 190 Percent"

President Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan has won a comfortable victory in the country's election. In fact, he took more than 86 percent of the vote, with the main opposition candidate getting just 7 percent. Unsurprisingly, Mr Bakiyev's opponents have refused to accept the result and have accused him of vote-rigging, with one suggesting the outcome is so ridiculous that Bakiyev "could easily have been given 190 percent." It's just like being back in the USSR.

It's all very different from four years ago. Then, Mr Bakiyev was swept to power by the so-called Tulip Revolution. The crowds that took to the streets of the capital Bishkek wanted rid of the previous regime because it had become too corrupt and authoritarian. Within a few months, a reasonably free election had returned Mr Bakiyev to office, and as he started making welcome noises about cleaning things up, western nations began to cosy up to Kyrgyzstan.

Now it seems Mr Bakiyev has gone the way of his predecessor, and is using all kinds of Soviet-style nonsense in order to stay in power. Of course the election was rigged, and of course he is now too corrupt and authoritarian to be a proper leader of a modern country. But you won't hear too many western leaders complaining about it. They need a stable Kyrgyzstan in order to prevent Taliban fighters from nearby Afghanistan getting another safe-haven in the area. Russia and China both take more than a passing interest in Kyrgyzstan, and neither wants radical Islam spreading any further in their backyard. So, lucky old Mr Bakiyev can basically do whatever he wants, as long as he keeps his country's borders secure. The only way he'll leave office is in another revolution.

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