Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kyrgyzstan Celebrate 20 Years of Independence

The Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia celebrates its 20th independence anniversary. Born in the chaotic last few months of the former USSR, it later became famous for the 'Tulip Revolution'.

Declaring Independence

During early years of the 1990s, Gorbachev's reforms ushered dramatic changes in Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1990, riots between the ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz broke out in Southern Kirghizia. Later in the year in October, Askar Akayev was elected to the presidency of the republic. In December that year, the Supreme Soviet of the republic changed the name of the Kirghiz SSR to Republic of Kyrgyzstan, removing the Soviet Socialist part, despite still being part of the USSR.

After the August 19 coup in Moscow collapsed, Akayev and senior leaders of the republic left the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Days later, on 31 August, they declared the independence of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Two Revolutions

Askar Akayev became the first president of independent Kyrgyzstan, which was admitted to the UN in 1992. In 1993, the country was remaned as the Kyrgyzs Republic.

In 2005, Akayev, who was accused of corruption and election fraud, was ousted in a largely peaceful revolution named the 'Tulip revolution'. His successor, Kurmanbek Bakiev, was also ousted by another revolution in April 2010. Ironically, he was accused of similar malpractices to those of his predecessor.

The current president of the republic is the former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva. She faces a multitude of challenges, including alleviation of poverty of the second poorest country in Central Asia and managing the racial tensions, especially between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks. There are also fears of a rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Russian Election Race Officially Begins

At a meeting with the seven registered parties in Russia on August 29, 2011, president Dmitri Medvedev announced that he has signed an official decree on the State Duma election. It is to be held on the 4th of December 2011.

On that day, Russian people will go to polls to elect the 6th Duma of the Russian Federation. Despite the changes in election laws, there is very little possibility that the composition of the 6th Duma will change from the 5th. In 2007, four political parties passed the 7% threshold to win seats in the Duma. They were:

1. United Russia
2. Communist Party of the Russian Federation
3. Liberal Democratic Party
4. A Just Russia

United Russia, led by prime minister Putin, holds 315 seats.

Although the election threshold has been lowered to 5%, as of now, opinion polls indicate that the other three registered parties (Democratic Party ("Yabloko"), Patriots of Russia and Right Cause) are not going to surpass that. The popularity of the main four parties are also close to the levels in 2007, indicating that the composition of the Duma will not change drastically.

Image: 'Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation' from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mermaid Dawn: The Battle for Tripoli

It is just a few weeks after the Libyan rebel military commander was assassinated, raising doubts over the unity of the NTC.

Suddenly, the situation has changed dramatically. Rebels advanced with renewed vigor, with support from the NATO air power. Then began 'Operation Mermaid Dawn'.

A general uprising in Tripoli began on August 20. Weapons were brought by boats and delivered to rebel elements. Caught by surprise, the Gaddafi loyalists have lost control of much of the city as of now (August 22, 2011, early afternoon in Libya). Gaddafi's two eldest sons are in rebel custody but the whereabouts of the leader is still unknown. A considerable area of the country is still under Gaddafi loyalists and until he is captured, the rebels will not win the battle.

Even then, a new NTC regime would find it hard to keep Libya united given the heterogeneity of the organization. Also, there is no guarantee that Libya would not become another Iraq. By giving support to the NTC, the NATO wanted to see the back of an anti-Western leader. But, there is every possibility that the fall of Gaddafi brings long lasting unrest in the neighborhood of Europe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is London Burning?..

Yes. London is burning. What started as a protest against the killing of a black youth by police at Tottenham has grown so much in intensity that it has become the worst riots in the city in decades. Furthermore, rioting has spread to several cities including Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Racially inspired violence has been a not so rare event in Europe during the last two decades. Immigrant communities have grievances of discrimination by law enforcement authorities and on the contrary, local right-wing extremists thrive on their anti-immigrant agendas. When unemployment rises these anti-immigration sentiments rise as the locals have to compete with the immigrant communities for job opportunities. As such, these riots are a portrayal of the underlying competition between locals and immigrants.

It's easier to blame the police or the immigrants for the riots. However, there are many opportunists who grab the chance to simply indulge in looting for the sake of their advantage. These people do not have any political motivation but makes it more difficult to re-establish law and order.

Nevertheless, the underlying political issue must not be neglected. Just 3 years have elapsed since the Londoners elected a candidate from the far-right British National Party (BNP) to the London City Council. The BNP vote share was 5.3%. In the recent general election in 2010, the BNP received nearly 2% of the national vote.

All of Europe is observing a resurgence of far right extremism. The gruesome massacre in Norway was a harsh reminder of the truth. In France, Sarkozy came to power on an anti-immigration platform. Ironically, today he is challenged by the far-right and not the far-left. Italy and some other European nations are also going through the resurgence of the right-wing. Hence, the riots in Britain should also be considered as a reminder of the larger European phenomenon, just as the massacre in Norway was.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Where to go Mr. Barack Obama?

Mr. Barack Obama’s foreign policy is suffering from indirection. It seems that by trying to satisfy all, he may alienate many and continue his predecessor’s job of harming the interests of the United States in the process.

Indeed, some of his problems are inherited from his predecessor, Mr. George W. Bush. Strangely enough, the mess in Mesopotamia has become somewhat manageable from the American point of view, but that is because the Americans are pulling out. Also, the focus on Iraq has dropped due to several factors, mainly the democracy movement still sweeping Arabia, the so called “Arab Spring”.

The “Arab Spring”

The “Arab Spring” is something Obama totally lost his way in. Toppling of the government in Tunisia was something the U.S. could not do much about, due to several reasons. But, Obama was unable to manage the Egyptian situation in a positive way for the U.S. and especially for her ally, Israel. From the day Mubarak was toppled, Israel’s anxiety has grown, and rightly so. On one hand, the military regime has taken several steps which Israel did not want it to, including the opening of the border with the Gaza strip. Also, on the other hand, since the Muslim brotherhood is the most organized political entity in Egypt, a post-military government would most probably be dominated by them, which will never be advantageous from the Israeli point of view.

Knowing these facts very well, it is hard to believe that Obama remained silent and let Mubarak fall. It is as if he wanted all these things to happen to Egypt and also to Israel!

Across the Red Sea, Obama was never ready to let Saleh fall in Yemen initially. However, as the situation worsened, the language of the U.S. changed dramatically. Even so, Saleh is still clinging to power. May be the U.S. wanted to arrest the possible rise of Al-Qaeda in Yemen by giving moral support to the anti-Saleh faction. However, Obama should have had the foresight to see that Yemen is always a volatile country. Repeatedly, leaders even in the U.S. are refusing to learn what JFK said about revolutions. Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible make violent revolutions inevitable; especially in a country like Yemen, where gun culture is the norm.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is quite content to be non-committed on Bahrain, another key ally in the region. Why should Mr. Obama seek unnecessary trouble when there are a number of other willing allies to get involved there? In that aspect, the U.S. is losing nothing by being silent while the Bahraini people are suffering the repression of its regime.

Perhaps Mr. Obama should have kept his silence on Libya also. By associating with rebels, the NATO is helping an ‘unknown devil’ to chase away a ‘known devil’. As the recent assassination of the Commander of the rebel forces has once more shown, the anti-Gaddafi rebels are still a mysterious lot. A substantial number of them are said to be Islamists who are sometimes reputed to be associated with the Al-Qaeda. While killing the infamous Islamist leader thousands of miles away in Pakistan, the NATO is content to deal with his henchmen at the doorstep of Europe. Strange politics, to say the least.


This is a point which Mr. Obama was always going to be in trouble, thanks to the foresight of his enlightened predecessor. By abandoning the battle in Afghanistan, George W. Bush willingly opened up a second front in Iraq. Of course, Obama opened up a third front in Libya. But, there he was quite helpless in a way as he was trying to satisfy the strange alliance of his Anglo-French allies.

Let’s turn back to Afghanistan. It is a matter of back to basics, or back to square one. Either way, it is the same. Despite everything said and done, including killing Osama bin Laden eventually, the fact that the Americans have messed up Afghanistan is undeniable. Barack Obama has further weakened his nation’s position with the all powerful drones. He has alienated Pakistani and Afghan government also. Alienating the latter is an unprecedented ‘achievement’ as whatever one may say, Kabul was more or less a puppet of the U.S. until quite recently.

Ten years on, there is no respite in violence in Afghanistan and actually with the high profile assassinations after the death of bin Laden, the violence seems to be unstoppable in the near future. Unrest is the order of the day in much-if not all-of Afghanistan and also in a substantial part of Pakistan. The Taliban is much stronger than one would have expected after a ten year war with the military superpowers of the world. Furthermore, as recent violence in China show, the Islamist spillover effect may soon affect the other countries in the region.

Due to this unprecedented achievement of the U.S. and her allies-of course the credit should mainly go to Mr. Bush Jr. and not Mr. Obama-the NATO troops are in such a position in Afghanistan that they cannot leave even if they wanted. But the sad part is, they seem to be utterly ineffectual even if they stayed. It’s no wonder that Mr. Obama is searching for a way out of this never-ending muddle he is in.