On April 15, Henry E. Hale, Ph.D. Harvard 1998, an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington (GW) University in Washington, DC, who specializes in the comparative study of democratization, federalism, ethnic politics, and international integration, came to speak at the University of Washington at Seattle on the “Logic of Regime Change in the former Soviet Union”.

While nothing he said was particularly ground-breaking, he provided a coherent framework for analyzing regime change in the former Soviet sphere. He argues that  a regular pattern has emerged of patron-client relations in institutions and that political exchanges are characterized by punishments and rewards. The president is the institutionalized focal point of politics and divides elites under his rule, though the president and elites are mutually dependent on each other. The president gives the punishments and rewards to the elites, who fall under him in a vertical or pyramidal structure and there is great incentive to fall in line.

The most dangerous time is when the president is expected to leave. The elites do not know who will take over the system as the president becomes a lame duck. They look for someone to rally around and often, the opposition party is strengthened. In the fight for power, Hale argues that public opinion is the decisive factor that can choose a leader and make him seem ‘inevitable’. Public opinion can be used as a weapon in the fight for power as no election can be too obviously fraudulent.

This framework is useful now as Kyrgyzstan is in political turmoil. On April 14, another Member of Parliament, Sanjarbek Kydyraliyev, was shot dead outside his home in Bishkek. That makes him the fifth MP killed since March 2005, when President Kurmanbek Bakiyev took power. The Jamestown Foundation article linked describes how politicians are being enmeshed in the criminal world. This means that organized crime is now part to the system of punishments and rewards in this patrimonial state. This may include Afghan heroin smuggled through the bazaar in Osh. Elections have been announced as thousands protest in Bishkek.

Hale’s final point is that revolutions in this type of state is normal. President becomes lame duck, elites/public coalesce around opposition, they come into power, and fall into the patron-client system with simply different groups and actors. I found this last point important as people can often be so optimistic about change, especially in countries like Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, but caution is more appropriate. Both countries are now considered “less free” by Freedom House’s ratings than before their colored revolutions. As power switches hands in Kyrgyzstan, caution should be used and a path out of the patron-client system needs to be found, rather than simply a change of faces.

Da: http://centralasia.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2009/04/19/the-upcoming-kyrgyz-elections-and-the-patron-client-system/