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Analysts: Kyrgyz Revolution is Incomplete

Kyrgyz election commission officials empty a ballot box at a polling station, during the presidential elections in Bishkek
This week, Kyrgyzstan made what is being called measurable progress towards democracy in holding peaceful presidential elections. It is a long way from the mass riots and looting of March that forced then-President Askar Akayev to flee the country amid discontent over flawed elections earlier in the year. Local analysts caution there is much work to be done to secure the goals of Kyrgyzstan's revolution.

"Change" was the watchword among Kyrgyz voters at the presidential polls. Number-one on their wish list: ensuring political stability, followed by economic growth to create jobs, and an end to official corruption.

Edil Baisolov heads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, a non-governmental organization in Bishkek. He says what the people of Kyrgyzstan will not tolerate is if acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev squanders the mandate.

Early results show Mr. Bakiyev reportedly winning 89 percent of the vote. Mr. Baisalov says the new government must focus on serving the people instead of on politics.

"They [the government] need to use the momentum to implement far-reaching and quite radical reforms and, in many ways, it is going to step on some people's toes, of many people of former regime who sit in the parliament. No compromise. That is what will make a revolution. That is why we say the revolution is not yet [over], the revolution continues," said Mr. Baisalov.

Political analyst Kumar Bekbalotov with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Bishkek agrees. He says domestic struggles over leadership and policy direction could slow changes. Mr. Bekbalotov says in order to define recent events in Kyrgyzstan as a revolution, Kyrgyzstan needs to see what he calls "revolutionary changes, especially in terms of foreign relations. But Mr. Bekbalatov is not optimistic.

"There needs to be [a] significant shift away from previous course and I think the new government cannot allow this, they can not shift away from their old allies. They cannot go away from their immediate surrounding, which is Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and, of course, Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And in this sense, I think one cannot expect significant alterations, significant changes," he explained.

Kyrgyzstan is seen by other analysts as a possible catalyst for regime change elsewhere in Central Asia. But some caution against labeling this a trend in the region.

Kazbek Abraliev is the leader of Kyrgyzstan's KelKel youth movement. He says each country's politics and culture must be taken into consideration. Mr. Abraliev says Kyrgyzstan's youth movement can share its individual experience and lessons learned. But he cautions against applying a Ukraine, Georgia or Kyrgyzstan model elsewhere.

Edil Baisalov of the Coalition For Democracy and Civil Society agrees there is not one set way to launch political change. He cites recent troubles in Uzbekistan as an example.

"We are very worried about [the] potential for development in Uzbekistan, because it is very different from Kyrgyzstan," added Mr. Baisalov. "We did have much more space for civil society, and our opposition was being led by former prime minister and former members of cabinet, whereas Uzbekistan there is no legitimate opposition and things can just go very wrong. And so it is a bottle of gas-water which needs to be opened very carefully, but it is important that those changes start."

Mr. Baisalov says the new Kyrgyz government got its first real test when hundreds of people fled Uzbekistan following the May massacre in the Uzbek city of Andijan. Rights groups say hundreds of people were killed as Uzbekistan troops opened fire on rebels who seized government buildings in Andijan.

Western countries are pressuring Kyrgyzstan not to extradite about 400 people back to Uzbekistan, as Russian and Uzbek authorities have urged. This week, the United States called for an independent investigation into the bloody crackdown after a U.N. report suggested that what happened in Andijan was a massacre.

Mr. Baisalov say the Kyrgyz government's handling of the affair will be a key litmus test of its commitment to universal human rights practices.