Following the popular revolt that brought an end to President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s regime in Kyrgyzstan in April 2010, Tajikistan’s government termed the crisis an “internal affair” of Kyrgyzstan and limited its official comments to the events confronting its southern neighbor. Despite the official silence, events in Kyrgyzstan have generated considerable debate among Tajik analysts and opposition leaders over whether the Kyrgyz scenario is possible in Tajikistan. Although there are ample similarities between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan when it comes to political and socioeconomic settings, most argue that a Kyrgyz scenario is impossible in Tajikistan due to major differences between the two countries in foreign and domestic politics, and in post-independence experiences.
BACKGROUND: In an effort to predict whether regime change in Kyrgyzstan could be replicated in Tajikistan, many experts have focused on similarities between the political, social and economic structures of Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s Kyrgyzstan and President Emomali Rakhmon’s Tajikistan. Following the Tulip Revolution that brought him to power in 2005, Bakiyev effectively marginalized major political opponents and gained full control of the country’s parliament by forming a new party of power, which won the elections of December 2007 by a landslide. He then consolidated his power by creating new institutions in the presidency and downgrading the formal governmental structure. Real power in Bakiyev’s Kyrgyzstan was exercised through informal networks of associates and relatives who used state control of the economy as a source of personal enrichment. In late 2009, Bakiyev put his son Maxim in charge of foreign investment flows and economic development in the country, prompting speculations that the former president was preparing for his son to succeed him in office.