Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly

Between 2005 and 2020, the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan had five presidential transitions of power. Three occurred due to widespread protests and civil unrest. Two occurred through peaceful and democratic means.

Now current Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, who won 80 percent of the vote in 2021, has been changing that tradition, and the country’s reputation as one of the only places in Central Asia where the public has fiercely fought – and won – battles against the government when its rights have been threatened.

“Increasingly his style of leadership has taken a leaf out of Putin’s playbook,” argued Arizona State University politics and global studies professor Keith Brown in the Conversation.

Japarov supported a successful 2021 referendum that expanded his powers and reduced those of parliament, for example. He’s passed laws that are used to crack down on media. He’s also building a new presidential palace five miles outside of the center of the capital of Bishkek, where protesters have gathered and ousted the country’s leaders in the past.

The latest example of the Putin-ification of Kyrgyz politics involves a proposed new law that would curtail the activities of non-profits and non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding. Think Western foundations funding anything from women’s rights initiatives, economic development, public health and workplace safety campaigns, wrote Amnesty International. The law would also require these groups then to register as foreign representatives. The legislation is clearly modeled after Russian initiatives.

“Such unreliable sources speculate on their ‘difficulties’ and ‘persecutions,’ which, in turn, force sponsoring foreign structures to follow their lead, engage in wastefulness, wasting money of taxpayers in the United States and (European Union) countries,” Japarov wrote in a letter to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in response to criticism of the law.

Human rights groups disputed that characterization.

“Many of the organizations vital to Kyrgyzstan’s political pluralism, democracy and human rights development will shut down, while the more service provision-oriented organizations may need to scale down the scope of their operations,” Human Rights Watch Central Asia researcher Syinat Sultanalieva told Nikkei Asia.

At the same time as he undermines his citizens’ human rights, Japarov is presiding over an incredibly corrupt country. As the Global Investigative Journalistic Network explained in an interview with Bolot Temirov, a Kyrgyz reporter who was deported from his home country to Moscow after publishing stories that embarrassed Japarov’s regime, self-dealing, graft, nepotism, embezzlement of public funds, and similar schemes are rampant in the country.

Meanwhile, journalists in the country are being targeted at an increasing level, Eurasia.net noted. In February, for example, a court ordered the closure of an investigative news outlet, Kloop, because prosecutors said it was harming the public’s mental health and driving them to drugs and sexual depravity because of its negative reporting on public institutions.

The climate in Kyrgyzstan makes it hard to believe officials when they announce that former customs official Rayimbek Matraimov hired Azerbaijani thugs to assassinate Kyrgyzstan’s political leadership, analysts say. Officials claimed that Matraimov, whom the US government sanctioned for allegedly stealing $700 million in Kyrgyz public funds, was seeking to stop their investigations into his corrupt dealings.

In late March, officials in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku extradited Matraimov to Kyrgyzstan to face justice, reported Radio Free Europe. Photos released of the prisoner during his flight seemed designed to humiliate the 52-year-old man who usually leads a lavish lifestyle.

As critics of the regime noted, it was a sign of what happens to enemies of the state.

Not already a subscriber?

If you would like to receive DailyChatter directly to your inbox each morning, subscribe below with a free two-week trial.

Subscribe today

Support journalism that’s independent, non-partisan, and fair.

If you are a student or faculty with a valid school email, you can sign up for a FREE student subscription or faculty subscription.

Questions? Write to us at hello@dailychatter.com.

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.

Copy link