Why do anti-government protests not spread to Central Asia?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

That's what this article from Zeit asks today. The article is quite off the mark in a number of places (quoting someone as saying that Nazarbayev turned down the opportunity to rule until 2020 without elections because of Egypt when he made that decision well before any anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia) but it's an interesting subject.

Some answers to the question are easy: one is language. Central Asia doesn't speak Arabic or English. Al-Jazeera broadcasts in Arabic and English thus aren't immediately comprehensible, and even if they were there is no shared cultural background with the Middle East besides a (mostly) common religion.

Length of time is another one: Ben Ali was in power for 23 years, Mubarak for about 30, Gaddafi for 42 so far. In contrast to this no country in Central Asia has even been officially independent for more than 20 years.

Another one is the economy: Egypt's GDP per capita has hardly budged at all over the past few decades while Kazakhstan's has grown every year except 2009 when GDP dropped in pretty much every country throughout the world:

Also, let's not forget that Kyrgyzstan actually did do away with its president last year, so it's not like Central Asia is naturally averse to protesting against presidents that abuse their power.

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