The Institute for Public Policy is a Bishkek-based independent organization that was founded in April 2005. It aims at promoting formation of a practice of public policy and development of mechanisms of constructive interaction between state institutions, civil society, mass media and businesses.
Valentin Bogatyrev: "They started brightly enough"
We offer our readers the text of the speech by Valentin Bogatyrev, the head of the analytical consortium "Perspective" from a Roundtable, discussing the lessons of 2011, held by the Institute for Public Policy. The Roundtable took place on January 18, 2012.
The results of the political year of 2011 as the starting conditions for systemic changes in the country
As I said earlier, we should consider everything that happened in 2011 as another stage of the April revolution. And, in my view, this third stage of the April Revolution ended quite successfully. In 2011, the group that had come to power in the country managed to make some important advances.
I would, first of all, point out two of them:
(1) They managed to cope with attempts of political revenge by the elites from Bakiyev's time, which the latter tried to do both through the parliament and the presidential election. If you review the list, you will see that the most odious figures of the previous government turned up in a weaker position than they were in the beginning.
(2) They were able to restore the autocracy in the country. Unlike during the time of Otunbayeva, today, no major issue can be solved without the President, either in the Jogorku Kenesh or in the government, and the case goes to the fact that they are recovering control in respect of the judiciary system, too.
The beginning of this year was marked by an extremely weighty presidential bid on the ideological leadership and the right to determine not only the appointments in the executive branch, but also the key issues of the country and its foreign policy.
Moreover, the current Kyrgyz President made it clear that he would not be in the role of a rookie, but he would act as a full partner in the range of post-Soviet Commonwealth Presidents.
Finally, we have heard the claim on the initiative to create the axis of Turkey - Kyrgyzstan – Russia within global political combinations. Of course, the Initiative is so far difficult to prognose, but Nazarbayev's Eurasian Union seemed a utopia a few years ago. However, today, it is in demand, even in the pre-election project.
Thus, despite the external similarity in the processes of coalition and government formation, we have today an entirely different authority than previously.
I should note that Atambayev did it two times faster than Bakiyev.
Now the whole question is not who was appointed to which position. In my opinion, it does not matter. The present political structure provides the greatest opportunities to solve personnel matters, including the highest positions, very quickly.
The main thing now is what Atambayev is going to do, and whether he has enough power for that. Today, he and nobody else, no other political group, decides what will happen in the country.
However, I disagree with those saying that he is a loner. Yes, he does not have a team in Bakiyev’s and Akayev’s sense. We do not hear about his family either. But Atambayev has managed to gather around him extremely ambitious people in key positions, and, as I understand, Atambayev is going to make full use of their energies to make real changes in the country. And this is the right move, since today only internal, national ambitions can save the country from the loss of sovereignty, default and collapse.
Moreover, it may be the only possible course for the President. We can only hope that he is aware of the fact that all these people, beginning naturally with the Prime Minister, see Atambayev as a resource for their own promotion.
It would be quite dangerous for the President, if not for one reason: on the one hand, they can be easily dismissed, as they do not have enough power for independent actions, and, on the other hand, they each have their Achilles heel, and the President has a “spear”, which can hit them. During the issue with the Speaker, we could see ourselves on the example of a famous politician that everything happened very quickly. And the President here did not use even a tenth of what was available to him.
Despite the picture I have just described, I think that there is no reason to talk about the new authoritarian regime. Unlike the first two Presidents, the status of the current President is much weaker, and there are various available mechanisms to limit the President's arbitrary rule, if any will appear. This is a fundamental difference.
Today, the leadership of Atambayev is based not on the law, not on the family-clan control, not on his presidential status, but solely on his ability to competently take political, strategic and personnel decisions. It is also ensured by the readiness of other participants in the political market to accept the leadership of the Atambayev.
Today, a sufficient critical mass of incorrect decisions and, if desired, in principle, a small group of opponents will be enough to deprive Atambayev of not only his current level of power, but also the post altogether. To do this, there are real tools and technologies in the current political structure.
But I think that the situation for Atambayev is even more rigid. Not only the wrong decisions, but also the lack of correct decisions can quickly exhaust the resources of his influence.
Obviously, Atambayev knows this well. That’s why he makes such emotional and ideologically charged statements on the topics that are sensitive to people. First of all, these include corruption, justice related to decisions of power, the judiciary system, and of course the theme of national unity and pride.
I think that his statements in the Turkish Parliament are to a greater extent addressed the Kyrgyz than to the Turks.
The repeated statements of unnamed third forces that want to put our country to its knees belong to the same type of rhetoric. I do not think that we should straightforwardly see any particular country behind it. And do not think that someone must be suspicious and offended or even make foreign policy conclusions with respect to our president's statements. It is rather a collective image of the enemy, which was not created to scare and threaten somebody. It was created for the Kyrgyz, for ourselves.
It is known that there are three main ways of national mobilization: through the great history, great ideas and the image of the enemy.
There are certain choices made by Atambayev. In my opinion, such a choice, namely the choice of the strategy to mobilize the nation based on the image of its resilience to the external forces (and in a specific interpretation - to certain states), seems mistaken to me, or, at least, very dangerous. First, a habit to look for enemies and explain all the problems by their machinations is difficult to eradicate. Second, it generates more the nations-losers, rather than the nations-winners. And thirdly, such a strategy makes us justify ourselves every time we arrive somewhere to ask for money.
Atambayev is quite firmly heading for the rejection of begging, and this is something really new. In any case, we have not heard anything like it since our proud rejection of the HIPC program. Now the question is whether people would agree with the restrictions and unpopular measures, which will inevitably follow the refusal from external borrowing, or, at least, from those that are associated with the political commitments.
We must understand that independence is costly for people. We must also understand that we ourselves must change and seriously to be free. Each step in the direction of national freedom will be linked to internal constraints, and the efforts that must be used in areas where we used to do nothing.
In fact, in my opinion, there has now been established a fairly good situation to be engaged in serious systemic transformation of our society and state.
We can distinguish seven vectors of reform. They are:
Changing the philosophy of government. Government exists not for the sake of personal gain but for the sake of developing the nation;
Modernization of the system of governance. We have an outdated, extremely inefficient and costly system of governance, which should be changed;
The formation of a real civil society, which is based on the structure of people's real interests and not purely dependent on donor funds;
The new nature and structure of the political space, refusal from the quasi-multiparty system and pseudo-parliamentarism;
Changing the system of socio-cultural norms of our society, return to moral, at least, social condemnation of those who do unethical or unlawful things;
Adopting a Kyrgyz economic model that has yet to be created;
And finally, the new Eurasian positioning.
Taken together, these reforms establish the new future for the country.
I must say that some work is already being done in these directions, and both the government and the civil society are participating in it.
In particular, we are seeing the efforts to improve the government and return to higher requirements that apply to the ethics of power. They are preparing not a primitive populist reform but a radical reform of the administrative structure of the country. The "Turkish March" by Atambayev formed an order for our foreign policy structures to prepare for the new Eurasian positioning of the country and a new system of external relations; new in its content and character. There is an active process of forming political parties of new quality, and most importantly - of non-partisan modern network forms of political co-organization of citizens. Specific action teams realize very interesting programs for the correction of the socio-cultural norms, e.g., it suffices to mention the project (sketch show) "Big People," including its famous video. And so on. Life has become more interesting.
Many of the measures in these areas are laid down in the government program, approved by the Jogorku Kenesh. We see that the government is already implementing inertial projects on separation of functions, removing control functions from the ministries, reducing government spending, optimization of investment environment and others. Note that this is done by the government that has not been fully formed. In fact, over the last month, they've made a lot of noise. There just arrived a few people who know what to do, how to do it and want to change the situation.
They started brightly enough.
I draw your attention to a very interesting phenomenon: for the first time in the history, of our country, civil society and government have reversed its roles. The government wants to and is making changes, while our civil society presses on the brakes. It is from the civil sector that appeals come for the preservation of state structures and resistance to non-market reforms.
Another question is whether the changes being planned are adequate, and whether there will be enough will, perseverance and energy to implement these reforms. But we'll see it soon enough.
I will repeat an important, in my opinion, conclusion in the end: the government no longer uses a luxury car, it uses a two-wheeled bicycle in a figurative and literal sense, I hope. And if it does not turn the pedals and move forward, it will fall very quickly.
Today there are at least two scenarios widely discussed among analysts: one of them is that the current government will last till the fall, and the other is worse - until April. These scenarios are discussed not simply from a desire to create a sensation. There is a lot of objective evidence pointing to the instability of power and the coming crisis.
But this may be the subject of another separate discussion.