Analytical materials / Kyrgyzstan

Zainidin Kurmanov: Low confidence in the government is explained by the lack of change

28.04.2015

“To raise the authority of the government, Kyrgyzstan urgently needs managers who know how to set goals and achieve them, strictly protecting national interests and having expert way of thinking. Change of elites is not to be held according to the criteria of age, but according to the criteria of professional skills and merit. This is not about tens or hundreds, but about thousands of new leaders of Kyrgyzstan at all levels, who can in principle solve any problems in a new way. This will greatly enhance public confidence in the government”, said Zainidin Kurmanov, Professor, Doctor of Historical Sciences (Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek), in an article written exclusively for CABAR.asia.
When conducting a sociological survey, the “El Pikir” service has observed the following thing: survey respondents answered the question about whom they trusted more, and religious organizations and the media took the first positions in their answers. The President was just above the middle of the list, which included about 20 bodies and institutions, including parties, NGOs, etc. The government was several positions lower, and the Kyrgyz parliament was even lower. Law enforcement agencies and the courts were at the lowest position. And, despite the fact that all of this questionnaire is only an abstraction, and confidence can be determined only to specific people and institutions, there is something to ponder.

The level of trust in the institution of the President stood above the level of confidence in the government and parliament, but far below the level of trust in religious organizations and the media, which is understandable. The President acts as the most stable political figure who is able to implement real change. The government also has enough competent staff. The low level of confidence in the parliament and its members is due to the large number of random people in it, relatives and friends. This situation is still maintained with the transition to a parliamentary form of government, although, actually, this transition did not take place because of the low political culture and skills of politicians.

In the post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, people’s high trust in the printed word has been preserved since Soviet times. The active return to religion of the country is a testament to the spiritual crisis of society, the fall of communism ideas and the search for new values. In these circumstances, the return of the population to religion is understandable, as religion is the most ancient, powerful, authoritative and sustainable institution of influence. Especially since there is no development of political parties, which can formulate uniting ideas and programs, and there are no charismatic politicians, strong civil society organizations and trade unions that could compete with religious organizations. However, the ratings of NGOs in the survey were much higher than the ratings of political parties, as they work in the midst of the people, and help them specifically on a daily basis, not only during the election campaign.

Today, after two upheavals, one can note a certain disappointment among the population with the unfulfilled promises of the new government, endless scandals and revelations within it, raiding and capturing people’s property, corruption, banditry, failures in policy reforms, personnel policies, ineffective decisions and management practices and so on. The reduced public confidence in the government is, however, a common thing. The higher authorities are rarely very gifted, and in a free country, there is always much criticism against them.

The fierce debate started from the very beginning in Kyrgyzstan – what happened in April 2010? The new government and its adherents argued that there was another, even greater revolution that gave beginning to a cycle of Arab color revolutions. More mature analysts in their estimates were more conservative – they believe that it was a coup and even rebellion, because it occurred spontaneously without preparation. Revolution is always prepared beforehand, it has political goals and objectives. Revolution is a change in the system, values, priorities, it is a systemic change. Leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization officially declared the April Revolution a coup. That’s the way the new government, not knowing about it, turned the public discourse to higher revolutionary expectations, and hence systemic change.  A large number of people were killed on the first metropolitan area, then in the course of inter-ethnic conflict in the south. And the victory of the uprising and the expulsion of the unpopular President happened thanks to the participation of the population in it. The opposition, according to the media, after their release, had also fled from the rebels. It would seem that, finally, real democrats, true champions of justice and freedom came to power. But then the security services drained a lot of compromising materials, which destroyed the heroic image of new people in power.

The bodies of dead rebellions were just buried, and the oath on the graves of the heroes of April revolution were uttered, when the media began to publish information about the money stolen from commercial banks, corporate raiding, large bribes for appointment to high office, etc. Thus, there is not more justice, legality, security and order than it was before.

Yesterday’s heroes turned out to be common criminals. In the public mind, there was a monstrous desacralisation of the ideas of revolution. The respect to the revolutionary government fell to a critical level. It is not just criticized, it has been “beaten, taken hostage”, which was not even in the most dashing years. Therefore, experts unanimously believe that the primary problem of the republic is the need to restore the authority of the government and authoritative control. And we need more staff for that, more people free from tribalism and corruption. We need people trained professionally and practicing democratic values and who carry out the promises. Due to the common weakness that resulted from two upheavals and post-revolutionary uprisings, the anarchy that established inefficient bureaucratic management, where the ruling class acts as a corrupt bureaucracy, the government cannot apply such management tools, as violence or coercion. Their application may again lead to rebellion and revolution, as, according to experts, a permanent revolutionary situation is maintained in the country, due to the unresolved systemic goals and objectives. Therefore we need a dialogue, consensus with the political forces to maintain balance and stability.

The appointment to high positions of random people who do not have the knowledge and do not know how to manage the change negatively affects the image of the authorities. People appointed on the post above the level of their competence do not understand all the difficulties related to management of the country and do not realize the consequences. However, in the government of Joomart Otorbaev, young professionals with Western education and speaking foreign languages began to work. But their critical mass is still small and cannot lead to systemic change.

There is abundance of creative leaders and “Messiahs”, militant provincials in the republic, who are making a lot of nonsense that leads to their frequent loss of power. Here lie the ontological roots of chronic instability in the power ranks. Redistribution of power and property between members of different tribal and party clans is taking time all the time. These people can make insurrections, riots, select and divide the property, weave plots, but do not know how to plan, program, how to change the scale of thinking, be proactive, manage projects or make informed and better decisions …
Sensible and principal administrators in the Kyrgyz Republic are now defeated and expelled from the state government. Only those stay who constantly passed over to the next winner to betray him as soon as he gets into trouble. Therefore, in the country, there are constant appeals of lustration.

Another serious problem is the lack of political stability. During 24 years of independence in Kyrgyzstan, there were replaced 26 Governments, 18 speakers of parliament, four Presidents, two of whom fled the country, and one was appointed temporarily. The number of the replaced Ministers, heads of departments, rectors, the number of ongoing reorganizations, cuts, mergers among the authorities is also beyond the common sense.

Of the sixth convocations of the National Parliament, three were dismissed early. Referendum was held 10 times, of which 8 times were dedicated to amendments to the constitution. Now we hear again the proposal for new constitutional amendments, including from the top leaders of the country.
The form of government was changed 3 times, the electoral system – 6 times. An attempt is being made today for the seventh time to change the electoral system to go back to preferential elections.

During 4 years of post-April revolutionary period, the two presidents, five prime ministers have been replaced, 5 majority coalitions in the Parliament have been disbanded. Experts believe that the current parliament can survive by the end of its term, if the country undergoes without shocks a sharp increase in electricity tariffs, prices of goods and food, which the population of the republic regard as a charge for joining the Eurasian Economic Union. Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev promises Kyrgyzstan three difficult years. Will the population, anxious of self-survival, wait such a long time?
In general, experts associate the weak position of the ruling authorities with the absence of systemic change. The achievements for 5 years after the revolution are rather modest. [1] Compared to 2010, the employment rate declined by 0.6%, unemployment – 0.1%, the incomes have grown by almost half, but the devaluation of Kyrgyz Som, rising prices of food and essential commodities “have eaten” this growth. The number of industrial facilities and the number of employed workers has reduced. The volume of foreign investment has slightly increased. Crime has also reduced, but still remains high, at the level of 2009. What about high promises? In some democratic country, voters would have voted for other parties. But in Kyrgyzstan, political parties are strongly dependent on the government. And those who have been more outstanding, have very few chances. Now the party is ready for new elections. Party bureaucracy, and party corruption are again thriving, the seats in the parliament are sold as a commodity. Consequently, during the next 5 years, the authorities will again be illiterate and irresponsible.

During 24 years of independence, Kyrgyzstan’s neighbors in the region have overcome a “stage of formation” and moved on to the “stage of development.” Kyrgyzstan is still in its stage of formation, as evidenced by an ongoing discussion about the constitution, symbolism, emblem, anthem, forms of government, state government, etc. This is not surprising. Indeed, in the administration of the country, there is no continuity. And the untrained and inexperienced managers are still treading water, engaged in “reinventing the wheel”, do not know what to do and where to go. Hence there is a constant feeling of deja vu. Problems are not solved, only persons are changed. Therefore, the population has no confidence that the government formed from such frames can pull the country out of the crisis and curb the corruption. This part, as well as non-transparent half-closed political system that is deaf to the aspirations of society, external and internal impulses, but is open and friendly to the interests of the ruling groups, explains the post-revolutionary protest rallies incidence in Kyrgyzstan, which with difficulty and only due to the ensuing fatigue of the population, rather than the effectiveness of management, begins to slowly subside. This is partly connected with the beginning of preparation for the parliamentary elections in 2015, which promises to be hot.

To raise the authority of the government, Kyrgyzstan urgently needs managers who know how to set goals and achieve them, strictly protecting national interests and having expert way of thinking. We need modern charismatic leaders, managers, having the necessary human potential and skills, in order to build a successful country. Change of elites is not to be held according to the criteria of age, but according to the criteria of professional skills and merit. This is not about tens or hundreds, but about thousands of new leaders of Kyrgyzstan at all levels, who can in principle solve any problems in a new way. This will greatly enhance public confidence in the government.

The population of Kyrgyzstan is afraid of the rise in prices of goods and products that commenced prior to joining the Customs Union and the Eurasian Union (after the entry, the prices should rise by 20-25%), depreciation of the ruble and the national currency – the som against the US dollar, political sanctions and the possibility of their spread to the country, continuing corruption, cronyism, political favoritism, failures in policy reforms (for example, judiciary) that people associate with incompetent managers, a sharp rise in rates and prices for power supply [2], etc. These and other issues will be a serious challenge to the existing government.

Kyrgyzstan has no clear and impressive plans, strategies that would inspire people to unite with the government. It causes grumbling and irritation among people, the discontent because of  the loss of sovereignty, people have a feeling that the country began to live on other people’s plans.
The ruling elite of Kyrgyzstan must understand that we have to finish the era of personal enrichment and carefree existence. With the rapid development of globalization and competition, it is necessary to do everything possible, develop and implement a strategy of “overtaking development”, betting on innovative approaches, human resource development, as traditional approaches and solutions will not allow the country to withdraw from the peripheral status.

Zainidin Kurmanov, Professor, Doctor of Historical Sciences

Opinion of the author may not necessarily represent those of CABAR

[1] See: Postrevolutionary Kyrgyzstan: what has changed and what has remained the same http://www.vb.kg/doc/309223_postrevolucionnyy_kyrgyzstan:_chto_izmenilos_i_chto_ostalos_prejnim.html  
[2] A sharp rise in rates from 0.7 to 1.5 som / kWh is considered to be one of the detonators of the April 2010 events in Kyrgyzstan. Now because of the shortage of water and lack of water in the river of Naryn, the electricity will be purchased from Kazakhstan for about 5 soms and sold to the population if they exceed the permitted limit of 700 kW, released at 0.7 soms per 1 kW / hr, at the price of 2, 05 som. Thus, the government promises to prevent rolling blackouts, although they continue under the pretext of repairs.

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