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Kyrgyzstan's Future Democratic Opportunity

(Washington, DC--May 26, 2005) Kyrgyzstan's revolution is not over, according to a leading Kyrgyz civic leader, even though a real opportunity exists for a breakthrough in his country's emergence as a democracy. Edil Baisalov, President of the Bishkek-based Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society told a recent RFE/RL audience in Washington that "the struggle for democracy is in the people's hands."

Baisalov said an independent nationwide television station is the most important factor for preserving Kyrgyzstan's democratic future. This broadcaster, which Baisalov said should operate independently of the government, should provide "fair and balanced" television news programming that presents a wide spectrum of political opinion and provides access to leaders of the opposition and of political parties. An independent national television station, according to Baisalov, would be a "main safeguard that the authoritarian regime will not return to Kyrgyzstan." It is also crucial, Baisalov said, to reform state television as soon as possible, to ensure the programming is balanced. Baisalov has no illusions, however, that state television will "move from acting as the main propaganda outlet of former President Askar Akayev's regime" to being the "BBC of Kyrgyzstan."

Baisalov also discussed the need for constitutional reform to safeguard Kyrgyz democracy. He called for the implementation of "checks and balances in the government," and said that safeguards needed to be put in place to guarantee a pluralistic society in Kyrgyzstan. Baisalov added that elections must not be practiced as a "zero-sum game;" rather, "the loser should have the opportunity to participate in future government activities." He is concerned that the Kyrgyz people should "not retreat to the divide" that existed prior to the revolution and find ways through "consensus and inclusion" to prevent the return of former President Akayev's authoritarian regime.

Baisalov is optimistic about Kyrgyzstan's future and believes that it will have free and fair elections in the near future. He concluded it is up to the Kyrgyz people -- with the help of the international community -- to determine the country's future.