Color Revolutions and Fate of Former Leaders

MOSCOW, Russia -- The treatment of leaders ousted in the recent "color revolutions" in some CIS states is directly related to the way in which power was seized.

Kyrgyzstan has meted out the most brutal treatment, followed by Ukraine and Georgia.


Yulia Tymoshenko during Orange Revolution

The fate of the former leaders in these countries depends on three factors: the degree of brutality in seizing power, the degree of confrontation between the old and new leaders, and the political and social base of the overthrown regime.

The Kyrgyzstan variant has proved cruelest, and in fact is close to that of classic revolutions: A seizure of administrative buildings by force and activists prepared to shed blood. The success of this revolution was predetermined solely by the moral weakness and exhaustion of Askar Akayev's regime: First, he could not decide about a transition of power at the upcoming presidential election (whether to appoint a successor or seek constitutional permission for the president to run for another term); second, he did not dare to use force to put down the riots. Otherwise, Kyrgyzstan would have forestalled the events in Uzbekistan, where the radical opposition might have decided against an upheaval in such a situation.

Akayev's capitulation was quick and uncompromising. He did not bargain with the opposition: Only after arriving in Moscow did he try to get some political guarantees, but the Kyrgyz parliament soon deprived him of many of his privileges.

Now Akayev and other representatives of his regime do not pose any political threat to the new authorities. However, it is in Kyrgyzstan that the new leaders are the cruelest towards the old ones.

So far Askar Akayev has not dared to return to his homeland. Immediately after his overthrow, the new Kyrgyz leaders did not rule out demanding his extradition (at the time he was thought to be in Kazakhstan), while people in the streets demanded his immediate arrest.

Two factors saved him: Firstly Moscow's unequivocal protection - and the new regime did not want to spoil relations with Russia - and the new leaders' need to legitimize their authority quickly. Thus, they began bargaining with Akayev: He was given minimal guarantees of immunity (passed with difficulty and in reduced form by parliament) in exchange for his voluntary resignation.

At the same time, the overthrow of Akayev's regime was not a pure victory. Politically, Akayev's supports pose virtually no threat to the new leadership. But the clannish character of the system may lead to a quick and easy absorption of the old regime's assets. For this reason the new leaders have taken decisive steps against representatives of the old system.

Kyrgyz Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov issued an arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev on charges of abuse of power. According to the prosecutor, the former president's son-in-law, Kazakh businessman Adil Toigonbayev may also be put on trial. Thus, in Kyrgyzstan persecution of the former regime is determined by the clan struggle for political and economic resources, as well as by populist motivation.

The situation in Ukraine is very different. The former elite was closely connected to the new one. During the "Orange Revolution" Leonid Kuchma held talks with the opposition. Moreover, he was prepared to transfer power to the opposition in advance, having passed constitutional reforms that noticeably weakened the president's post.

His support for Viktor Yanukovich as his chosen successor was conventional and not based on a consensus (politicians who comprised the coalition were prepared to run on their own in the elections). The revolution did not overthrow Kuchma, but counteracted the succession scheme. And although Yanukovich lost the elections, he still enjoys solid political support in the east of the country, so he is primarily a political rival for the new leadership.

Thus, the attitude of the new rulers to the old ones is dictated mainly by political competition: In these circumstances Kuchma is almost immune, while Yanukovich has found himself involved in a number of criminal cases.

At the same time, Ukraine has something in common with persecution of former leaders in Kyrgyzstan: An affinity for populist moves and confrontation between clans. For example, the arrest of Boris Kolesnikov, head of the Donetsk regional administration, is most likely an attempt by the new authorities to tighten their grip on all levels of power, ousting the remnants of the old clan and depriving it of administrative resources.

Finally, in Georgia the confrontation between the old and new leaders is minimal compared to Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The main difference is that former President Eduard Shevardnadze gave up his power almost without a struggle, and the new elite was closely connected to the old one, while confrontation between clans was weakened significantly. So the former president poses neither a political nor a clan danger for the new authorities. In fact, Georgia is an example of what could have happened in Ukraine if the latter had not had the politically ambitious and relatively influential Yanukovich.

Source: Ria Novosti

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