Speaking in July 2011 on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Kyrgyzstan’s new constitution, then-President Roza Otunbaeva declared that the key task for the Kyrgyz citizenry was “to make a return to authoritarianism impossible.” Her comment conveyed both a celebratory note about the eradication of the previous authoritarian regime and pointed to the key threat going forward.
A multiparty parliament, a three-party coalition government, and a divided executive with a significantly weakened presidency are the main features of Kyrgyzstan’s new political system, now two years old. It is a set-up that the authorities boldly call parliamentary rule. The June 2010 referendum on the constitution and parliamentary and presidential elections in October 2010 and October 2011 passed peacefully (contrary to many predictions) and generated some cautiously positive assessment.
In light of the forceful overthrows of recent Kyrgyz rulers, however, and in the context of post-color revolution developments in Ukraine and Georgia, one may wonder whether Bishkek has achieved an equilibrium that will last or whether it has merely reached a temporary stage in a revolutionary/authoritarian cycle. Looking at certain key political features such as political fragmentation and elite dynamics, this memo argues that the current regime can best be characterized as one of “feckless pluralism” (to borrow a term from expert Thomas Carothers) and that this system can endure. [...]