Friday, February 25, 2005

Election This Weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Another former Soviet republic is having an election, and the Wall Street Journal has an interesting write-up on it. Link. (subscription required)
From a frigid shed in this snow-covered city, Mike Stone provides a crucial tool to the opposition activists trying to oust the autocratic regime here: a printing press owned by the U.S. government.

A former journalist from East Moline, Ill., Mr. Stone runs the press as a nonpartisan business. "We'd print anything that comes through the door," he says.

But as tension mounts ahead of key parliamentary elections this Sunday, Mr. Stone's shop provides the only print-media outlet for opponents of longtime President Askar Akayev. (...)

The Swedish-made press he uses is on loan from the U.S. State Department. Freedom House, the U.S. nongovernmental agency, or NGO, that employs Mr. Stone, receives most of its Central Asia operating budget from the U.S. Agency for International Development. When a Kyrgyzstan utility this week cut off Mr. Stone's electricity, the U.S. embassy here stepped in with emergency generators. (...)

The stakes for the region are high. In 2003, peaceful demonstrators, some carrying roses, ousted Georgia's longtime president, former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevarnadze, in what became known as the "Rose Revolution." Two months ago, thousands of Ukrainians wearing orange seized control of Kiev's main square to protest voting fraud, setting the stage for opposition candidate Viktor Yuschenko to win the presidency. Now, opposition figures hope to go three-for-three -- this time using yellow as their color -- in a bid to push Mr. Akayev from power. (...)

One of the things that kept communists loyal to the party was their "knowledge" that history was on their side. They took it as an absolute that a communist future was inevitable, and they were merely trying to speed things along. Now it appears that it is Mr. Putin who is on the wrong side of history. He is staring at the lights of an onrushing train, and he has to decide whether he will get out of the way or if he will be run over.


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