Voters in Kyrgyzstan elected Almazbek Atambayev as president Sunday, overcoming the first hurdle in a series of reforms aimed at creating Central Asia’s first parliamentary republic. But the new leader faces the double-edged sword of a newly minted democracy: endless, relentless protests. Over 1,000 demonstrations have taken place in the former Soviet republic so far this year—an average of three a day—as Kyrgyzs picket and block public roads over everything from human rights to interest rates.
Indeed, Kyrgyzs appear to be enthusiastically embracing openness in the 18 months since the bloody April 2010 overthrow of authoritarian leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, which resulted in more than 85 deaths. Bakiyev, who fled to Belarus, was charged in absentia with mass murder in the deaths of the anti-government protesters. An unprecedented 16 candidates stood in Sunday’s election, a stark contrast to neighbouring Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, where iron-fisted strongmen still run the show. But rival Adakhan Madumarov said Atambayev should not rest easy just yet, pending allegations of voting fraud: “If the election results are falsified, we will definitely launch protest action.” Of course.