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Asher Kohn Kyrgyzstan

Asher Kohn Kyrgyzstan

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Published by: AJKohn on Feb 07, 2012
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“We Must Work
Tirelessly to Instill a
Political Culture”
Legalistic Aspirations andRealities in Kyrgyzstan
Asher J. KohnDec. 2, 2011
Part I: Introduction & Background
Kyrgyzstan‟s turn of independence in 1991 was in many ways not a welcome one. The
Soviet Socialist Republic of Khirghizia was the second poorest of all the USSR‟s republics upon
breakup, and a March 1991 referendum saw 88.7% of Kyrgyzstani voters approve a proposal toremain within the Russian Federation.
It was no matter; Askar Akayev became the firstpresident of a new Republic of Kyrgyzstan on August 31, 1991.
A new Constitution wasapproved in 1993, which would be updated in 1996, 2004 and 2007.
Even in 2005, as Akayevwas swept out of power by a coalition of fellow politicians, the 1993 Constitution remained.
wasn‟t until the 2010 riots that chased new President Kurmanbek Bakiev out of power that a
wholly new Constitution was formed.
 This new constitution, approved by referendum in July 2010, represents if not a cleanbreak with the past, then certainly a different tack.
While keeping old legislation intact, it movesKyrgyzstan to a parliamentary system where the Prime Minister, not President, is the head of government.
However, this constitution is also a strongly aspirational document, defining
Genevieve Gunow,
 Recurring Themes in the Kyrgyz Revolutions
, Vestnik: The Journal of Russian and AsianStudies (Oct. 20, 2011),
available at 
Kyrgyzstan‟s official title is The Kyrgyz Republic. The region was incorporated into the Russian Empire as
Kirgizia, was known as the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic as part of the USSR, and announced its 1991independence as the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. It changed its name to the Kyrgyz Republic in 1993. An alternativetransliteration is Khirghizstan, which can still be found on some documents. For the sake of sorely-neededsimplification, this paper will refer to the country as Kyrgyzstan and its citizens as Kyrgyzstanis.
An electronic version of the 2007 Constitution can be found in English translation athttp://aceproject.org/ero-en/regions/asia/KG/kyrgyzstan-constitution-1993-2007/viewvia ACE Electoral Knowledge Network.
U.S. Congressional Research Service. “Kyrgyzstan‟s Constitutional Crisis: Context and Implications for U.S.Interests” (RS22546; J
an. 5, 2007), by Jim Nichol. Accessed: Dec. 1, 2011. This 2005 event that took Akayev frompower and installed Kurmanbek Bakiyev in his stead is popularly called the Tulip Revolution.
OSCE observers back Kyrgyzstan referendum,
BBC News (Jun. 28, 2010),
available at 
. It should be mentioned that the referendum installing the new Constitution took place during ethnic clashes inthe south of the country that saw nearly 1,000 dead and 100,000-400,000 refugees.
“Where is the Justice?”
,Human Rights Watch (Aug. 16, 2010),
available at 
 gyzstan‟s Proposed Constitution
, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Jun. 24, 2010),
available at 
Kyrgyzstan as it wishes the country be.
The newly elected President Almazbek Atambaev isexpected to revert rule of law back to presidentialism and, in effect, authoritarianism.
The futurethat this Constitution reaches out to is still ill-defined.
During the drafting process, Nurlan Sadykov stated that in the new Constitution, “[t]he
prime minister will be accountable to the parliament and the parliament will be accountable to
the electorate, the people.”
This paper will demonstrate how the aspirational Constitution of 
Kyrgyzstan is not quite able to answer Sadykov‟s proposition.
The paper begins by looking at theconstruction of civil society in order to display the vibrancy of non-governmental life in thecountry. Then, this paper will briefly survey the elite class of Kyrgyzstan, demonstrating that thesame actors in power at the fall of the USSR are still in power today through an explicitcombination of cooperative measures and exclusionary tactics. Finally, this paper will look at
governmental accountability in two parts, as posited in Sadykov‟s above quote. First, it will
examine the legal and illegal means through which parliament keeps a check on the head of state.Second, it will examine the relationship between parliament
(called “Jogorku Kenesh” inKyrgyz, a term that will be used interchangeably with “Parliament” in this paper) and the
Kyrgyzstani people, showing how repression interplays with binding ties to create somethingwell short of pure accountability.Simply put, the legal norms in Kyrgyzstan are not quite level with its Constitution. Byexhibiting
the difference between civil society‟s and the elite players‟ methods of self 
governance, this paper will demonstrate the carrying conceptions and selective enforcement of 
An aspirational constitution has a “forward
looking viewpoint” that “defines a nation in terms of its future, itsgoals and its dreams.”
, Kim Lane Scheppele, “Aspirational and Aversive Constitutionalism: The Case for 
Studying Cross-C
onstitutional Influence through Negative Models” 1
L. 296, 299 (2003).
Quoting Eric McGlinchy in Daisy Sindelar,
 Hopes for Stability as Kyrgyz Presidential Vote Approaches
,Eurasianet.org (Oct. 29, 2011),
available at 
David Trilling,
 New Kyrgyz Constitution Strong on Promises, Vague on Checks and Balances,
Eurasianet.org(May 4, 2010),
available at 
 http://www.eurasianet.org/node/60985;Nurlan Sadykov is the director of the Institute for Constitutional Policy and one of the framers of the Constitution.

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