Concern about Kyrgyzstan's civil rights climate is prompting the country's sizeable Uzbek community to throw its weight behind the government as election season approaches. The show of support comes even as many express frustration that their own interests have gone unnoticed by President Askar Akayev's administration.
Comprising roughly 13 percent of Kyrgyzstan's overall population of 5 million, Uzbeks are the country's largest ethnic minority group. Uzbek election preferences are sure to be driven by memories of the bloody 1990 rioting involving Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern Osh region. Akayev's domestic policies, casting Kyrgyzstan as a "common house," have helped restore a sense of order, and have reassured many Uzbeks that they are welcome in Kyrgyzstan.
Now, with Akayev's pending retirement in 2005, many Uzbeks are approaching the parliamentary and presidential votes in 2005 with apprehension. They are keen to see Akayev's "common house" course continued, but wonder what will happen if Akayev leaves the political stage.
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Alisher Khamidov is a PhD Candidate at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.