Kyrgyzstan Leader Warns of ‘Arab Spring’ Effect in Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan’s interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, who introduced the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, said other countries in the energy-exporting region should follow suit after uprisings in the Middle East.

“After what happened in North Africa and the Middle East, slowly European countries started recognizing that it’s unacceptable, outrageous, that those dictators shoot their people,” Otunbayeva said today at the World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia in Vienna. In Kyrgyzstan, “everything is open today, we have an open press, we have a strong civil society, and this is the total opposite to those places which all of us watch with a lot of concern,” she said.

Gas-rich Uzbekistan, where President Islam Karimov has ruled since 1989, cracked down on an uprising in the eastern city of Andijan in May 2005, leaving hundreds dead. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in power for two decades in the former Soviet Union’s second-biggest energy producer, won re-election in April with 95.5 percent of the vote in a ballot criticized by international observers.

Otunbayeva, 60, is the head of a provisional government that assumed power after the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April last year. Kyrgyzstan held parliamentary elections in October that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe praised for their “political pluralism and vibrant campaign.” The Kyrgyz leader said that she won’t run in presidential elections later this year.

The European Union’s Special Representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel, said the lesson from the so-called Arab Spring is that corruption breeds unrest.

‘Systematic Corruption’

“We have seen with the events across the North Africa and Middle East region that systematic corruption leads to revolution,” he said. “This is a basic political process, so political debate is the government’s means to reduce tolerance for corruption.”

Nazarbayev, 70, whose central Asian country has been courted by the West as an alternative energy source, has called for stability after the Middle East was gripped by turmoil that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. His continued dominance and the lack of an anointed successor increase risks for investors in Kazakhstan because they may complicate an orderly transfer of power when he eventually retires, analysts say.

Kazakhstan holds about 3 percent of the world’s crude oil reserves, according to BP Plc. Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Eni SpA, OAO Lukoil and China National Petroleum Corp. have a part of $120 billion in investments in the country, which is also the world’s largest uranium producer.

The Development Bank of Kazakhstan, a state-owned lender that promotes industry, in December cited the lack of a clear successor to Nazarbayev as a risk factor in a $2 billion bond prospectus.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Vienna at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net; Zoe Schneeweiss at zschneeweiss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.