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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Little Change in Kyrgyzstan

APBermet Akayeva smiling in the parliament building in Bishkek on Thursday.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- When protesters stormed the government headquarters in Kyrgyzstan last month, staffers in then-President Askar Akayev's administration cowered in locked rooms or fled through a side door. Five days later, many were back, being addressed by their new boss in a building still littered with broken glass.

The forceful takeover pushed Akayev out after 15 years in power and ushered some of his staunchest opponents into top positions. But now, three weeks later, little has changed.

Many bureaucrats remain in office, others are being appointed because of connections or family ties. State television has settled into a familiar pattern, fawning over those now in power.

Perhaps most strikingly, the parliament elected in disputed voting that served as the catalyst for Akayev's ouster is now in session -- and on Thursday his daughter Bermet Akayeva, who had fled with the rest of the family, unexpectedly turned up at the legislature to assume the seat she won in the balloting after a rival was disqualified.

Adjusting her rimless glasses and calmly pulling folders out of her handbag before taking a seat, Akayeva's cool demeanor and the seeming indifference of other lawmakers underlined the business-as-usual atmosphere despite the forceful power seizure fueled in part by anger at alleged corruption and greed in the longtime president's family.

"I am not expecting any problems from the people of Kyrgyzstan," she told reporters.

Outside parliament, though, a small crowd of protesters reflected the anger of those in this country who want a cleaner break with the past. Their ire raises the possibility of new unrest and has helped prompt warnings, including from Western nations, that the new authorities must avoid making the same mistakes as their predecessors, who were widely accused of corruption and abuse of power.

For Melis Eshimkanov, there is already a sense of deja vu.

In the February and March elections that sparked the opposition protests, Eshimkanov lost to an Akayev ally in a race he claimed was tarnished by obvious fraud. After Akayev's downfall, his appeal of the result was rejected by a court he alleged was under pressure from acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

"Before the revolution, the Akayev administration throttled me through the courts in order for me not to win. And today, the Bakiyev administration pressures the judges, and the court rules against me," said Eshimkanov.

He argued that Bakiyev, "in his very first days," had made mistakes Akayev began making only after years in power.

Eshimkanov said thousands of his supporters were among the anti-Akayev demonstrators who took part in the protests that culminated in the storming of the government headquarters.


Vladimir Pirogov / Reuters

Protesters scuffling with police at an anti-Akayeva rally in Bishkek on Friday.

He said that "their victory was stolen in the crudest way" and warned they could take to the streets again if he does not win the seat on appeal.

Such statements bode ill for stability in the shaken country as it prepares for a new presidential election, scheduled for July 10. Some analysts have expressed fears that Akayev's swift and sudden downfall at the hands of a few thousand protesters left the country's political forces with the impression that change comes easily.

Edil Baisalov, the head of a prominent nongovernmental organization that monitored the parliamentary elections, said a more gradual transfer of power with broader backing from citizens would have given the new leaders a stronger sense of their responsibility to the people to govern fairly and openly.

He evoked Ukraine's Orange Revolution, in which hundreds of thousands of people took part in weeks of protests that helped sweep the opposition to power.

"I'm disappointed that our revolution lasted not three weeks but three hours," Baisalov said. "To have had tent camps filled with protesters in central Bishkek would have lifted the nation's spirits and been a major influence on the new government. But we didn't have that -- it looked like a coup."