Kyrgyzstan. According to countryaah, the international financial crisis had repercussions even in the deep poor of Kyrgyzstan. As unemployment grew in the country, many guest workers from the Russian Federation also returned, where they lost their jobs. In March, the opposition held protests in several cities against the regime. As Moscow’s support for the country increased, the oppression of dissent intensified. Independent media was persecuted during the year, many critically reviewing journalists were subjected to assault and at least three were killed. A journalist was killed along with a regime critic in a mysterious car accident in March. In October, the editor-in-chief of the independent weekly magazine Zjylan was murdered, who reported on police corruption, among other things. In December, an opposition journalist died after being ejected from a high-rise building in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. The opposition blamed President Bakijev’s regime for the murder. Several journalists were also brutally beaten during the year.
The July presidential election became a walking victory for incumbent Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakijev, who during the election campaign talked about new terrorist threats from Islamists. The opposition said he was conducting scare propaganda. According to official results, Bakijev received 76 percent of the vote, while challenger and former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev was reported to have received 8 percent. Accusations of electoral fraud came from the opposition which organized protests, when police and protesters rallied and many participants were arrested. European election observers rejected the election, saying it did not meet sufficient standards.
In October, President Bakijev took control of both the Foreign Ministry and the Security Service. Prime Minister Igor Chudinov resigned in protest, and Bakijev immediately appointed his trusted Danijar Usenov as new prime minister. Bakijev said his campaign was aimed at fighting security threats, corruption, bureaucracy – about 40 percent of employees in the central government administration would be laid off – and economic crisis. The opposition talked about concentration of power. The new head of government Usenov was described as tough in his view of the opposition.
The Great Powers’ struggle for influence in Central Asia had repercussions in Kyrgyzstan. When Bakijev visited Moscow in February, his government announced that it would close the US air base Manas, used by the United States for the war in Afghanistan. Following negotiations with both the United States and the Russian Federation, the result was that non-military US transportation was allowed to continue, while Kyrgyzstan received far higher rent for the base. At the same time, the Russian Federation pledged loans and assistance to Kyrgyzstan and in turn promised a second military base in the country and increased the number of Russian soldiers there.
Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers are melting at an ever-faster pace with altitude reductions of 20-50 meters per year, Kyrgyzstan geologists warn that all of the country’s glaciers may be gone within a century. The ice- and snow-covered mountains are crucial for water supply in Central Asia.