Well the color has yet to be decided for definite, but the revolution in the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan is in full swing:
Thousands of protesters, some armed with clubs and Molotov cocktails, seized control of key government buildings and the airport in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city Monday, prompting security officers and local officials to flee and loosening the government's grip over a swath of this former Soviet republic.
The opposition also took control of government buildings in four other cities and towns across Kyrgyzstan's impoverished south, Interior Ministry spokesman Nurdin Jangarayev said. Protesters burned and stomped on portraits of President Askar Akayev and seized protective shields from police. Others were seen running through the streets carrying bottles of flammable liquid.
Driving even the more moderate among the protesters (who are now burning down government buildings and taking over entire towns) are fears that Akayev, who currently has a significant majority in the newly elected (although highly controversially so) parliament, will use this advantage to change Kyrgyz law to allow him to run for another term this fall, or at the very least orchestrate the elections so that a member of his family gets the presidency.
The protests have not yet reached the capital (where my partner's family lives), but it's growing daily and unless Akayev's offer to meet the protesters' request for a probe into allegations of widespread vote-rigging quells them, or Akayev strikes out against the protesters, that seems only a matter of time (both, reaching Bishkek and Akayev striking out). The opposition leaders are not leaving Akayev much wiggle room either, calling for his resignation, and some are being right down confrontational:
Roza Otunbayeva, leader of the Ata-Jurt Movement, one of the main opposition groups, and a former foreign minister, ruled out any talks with Akayev.
"We have one aim only: to oust this government ... There is no need for talks anymore," she said.
Another opposition leader is saying he'll meet with Akayev (let's hope his style of protest gains favor).
In one of the dumbest PR moves I can imagine, though, Russia is criticizing the protesters:
In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry condemned the protests, saying, "Extremist forces must not be allowed to use political instability to create a threat to the democratic foundations of Kyrgyz statehood."
It also rebuked the OSCE for its critical evaluation of the elections, urging it to "be more responsible in formulating its conclusions to prevent destructive elements from using these assessments to justify their lawless actions."
After the Ukraine PR disaster, you'd think Putin would wait and see what happens before pontificating about democracy, but there you are. Although, to be fair, the US State Department is also calling for restraint:
The United States Government has been following events in Kyrgyzstan closely since the second round of parliamentary elections last week. We are concerned by incidents of violence in Jalalabad and other parts of the country. We call on all parties in Kyrgyzstan to engage in dialogue and resolve differences peacefully and according to the rule of law.
The United States strongly endorses the March 20th Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) statement calling for nonviolence and immediate dialogue. U.S. officials have been in contact with both the government and opposition to reinforce this message.
What's perhaps most troubling about the protests is that the opposition is not united. Jockeying is taking place among the rival opposition groups, and that seems to represent the potential for even more widespread violence. There is a fledgling umbrella opposition coalition group, but I can't read Russian, and their English translations are a bit out of date, so it's hard to gage how on top of things they are.
Also complicating the efforts to assess the situation accurately is the fact that the state controlled Kyrgyz media is downplaying the protests, suggesting folks in Bishkek are not going to appreciate just how violent it's getting (10 dead and counting) until it's on their doorsteps. Word from my partner's family is that it still seems a distant rumble from where they are in the capital.
At this point, it seems that among all the things that could happen perhaps the best combination is for the opposition to see its way toward some sort of broad coalition, for Akayev to make a legislative gesture that ensures he'll step down (not knowing Kyrgyz law at all, I'm not sure what that might entail, but he certainly should finish his current term if possible), and for Akayev to move forward with the promised investigations into vote-rigging and work to ensure the opposition believes the findings.
Akayev can greatly influence Krygyz destiny here, something that should appeal to him more than the petty croynism and corruption he seems bent on advancing. By galantly stepping down, he could carve out a Washingtonian sort of place in this nation's history for himself. He really needs to dare to dream that big.
*Family joke; present continuous form of "to hiccup," in some circles anyway.