No Country for Lame Ducks: Lessons of 2017 Kyrgyzstan for state and democracy building
(OSCE Academy in Bishkek)
The presidential elections of 2017 in Kyrgyzstan, beyond the celebrations of first-time peaceful handover of power from one elected president to another, raise serious questions about the larger and longer picture of the election year. The outgoing President Atambaev, starting from late 2016 till the very last days of his presidency in late 2017, ran a political sprint of aggressive action in the country, letting sparks spillover to foreign affairs. He could not enjoy the privilege of being a ͞lame duck͟ president, as it happens with late-term presidents in established democracies, and luckily for him, he did not have to. This paper posits the question of whether in an institutionally fragile state and a "limited access order" (Douglass North et al, 2007) an outgoing head of state is subject to the "lame duck" syndrome as observed in established electoral democracies such as the United States. The provisional answer, based on early analysis, is "No". This paper will explore and analyse more fully the case in point to corroborate or revise the provisional answer and spell out its logic. But more importantly, the paper will be able to contribute a broader critical discussion of democratization and democracy building, a critical look at the concept of patronal politics as proposed by Henry Hale, and a rejoinder to the theme of formal vs informal politics that has received some treatment already but is not quite exhausted yet. In developing the critical thread of thought on all these three themes, the paper will draw on the conceptual framework of ͚limited access orders͛ of North, Barry Weingast and others in a series of works since 2007. In a word, the challenge posed is that of taking the fledgling, non-rule of law states as they are, and thinking about their eventual development into rule of law states - and open "access orders"- realistically and contextually. The paper will be based on close analysis of key threads of political developments - events and strategies - during the presidency of Almazbek Atambayev, especially in the last pre-election year, and in the immediate post-election period (as it actively unfolds when this proposal is being written), relying on sources as varied as local news reports, official and informal political statements, relevant analyses and reports by various sources and interviews with a number of well-informed ͚insiders͛.
Revolution and State Building