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Kyrgyzstan: What to watch this week

And why to care about the upheaval in this small, ex-Soviet state.

4. Does the new government have any money?

Kyrgyzstan is allegedly close to bankruptcy. According to reports, Bakiyev plundered the state accounts before departing, leaving only about $20 million. This may or may not be true, but it seems certain that the country is in dire economic circumstances. Russia has pledged more than $150 million in aid. Large numbers of Kyrgyz work in Russia as migrants. Kyrgyzstan itself has no major industry or natural resources. Economic difficulties brought the thousands of protesters who forced Bakiyev’s ouster onto the streets. The next weeks and months will be a test for the new government.

5. Will instability return, and fast?

It is difficult to believe that the provisional government consists of the exact same people who have spent the five years since the Tulip Revolution squabbling and stabbing each other in the back. Less than a year ago they were incapable of mobilizing a significant unified challenge to Bakiyev in presidential elections. Now, incredibly, they are running the country. But many Kyrgyz distrust them — they are for the most part familiar faces who have held positions of power in previous governments. Their authority, while growing, is still very low. Roza Otunbayeva has said that the current cohort will step out of the way after new leaders are elected — possibly in six months. One hopes that they hold that long.

An alternative scenario is that the provisional government turns out not to be so provisional. Some of the new leaders even worked in the previous government, including Otunbayeva. To be fair, a large number of them resigned from Bakiyev's regime in protest. The changes they have put forward are on the surface commendable: new elections, constitutional reform and a country run by parliament, not the president. But now that they are in office, they may find the temptations of power to be too great. Jobs can be handed to relatives and friends, lucrative business contracts secured, and state resources can be appropriated. Meanwhile, the media can be cowed into submission. And when the time comes to step down, they may decide that it’s just too intoxicating — or too lucrative — to leave.