Democracies on shaky ground

SentralAsiaThe fall of communism in Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union created excitement and hope of swift steps toward democracy in the former Soviet republics. This has not happened as expected. Optimism is replaced by a growing concern about the resurgence of authoritarian governance, nepotism and widespread corruption. However, there are significant regional differences. The former republics in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Moldova and the Southern Caucasus, as Armenia and Georgia have had a better democratic development compared with Central Asia. Central Asia includes the five former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. On balance, this region is considered to represent some of the most repressive regimes in the world. Many of the region’s political leaders consider democracy as a threat to their own political power and positions, and widespread corruption with the confusion of personal interests and public interests hinder social and economic development.

But there are also differences between the countries of Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan conducted a number of important economic reforms after the country became independent in 1991. After the last uprising in 2010, the country has also gained a new, more democratic constitution. It remains nevertheless important follow-up steps in the design of the country’s overall laws and the subsequent case law that ensures real democracy, basic human rights and freedom of assembly and expression.

Kyrgyzstan is widely regarded as a “democratic island nation” in Central Asia, surrounded by authoritarian regimes. Oslo Center has chosen to work with political authorities and the government of Kyrgyzstan to review various issues related to human rights, minority rights, relations to the civil society, international conventions and democratic governance. The starting point has been an interest and a positive attitude expressed by Kyrgyz authorities for such a discussion. This openness and desire for cooperation is a good starting point for a constructive dialogue. The aim is to contribute to a process of different measures to ensure a stronger democratic development in the country.

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