It appears that ousted Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev – who fled the capital Bishkek for the south of the country after violent street protests against his rule led most of the military and police to turn against him – is inching towards taking the Marcos option.
Like the former Philippines dictator who fled his homeland in the wake of a rigged election that led to an outpouring of protests and an abandonment by the country's military elites, Mr. Bakiyev appears out of options following the Kyrgyzstan coup. The 2009 election that delivered him 76 percent of the vote was widely seen as rigged – even by the US, a close ally – and public fury was soon unleashed against his government due to a declining economy and a belief that he was stealing an ever larger share of the public purse.
The last straw was a rise in electricity rates, which generated outrage not least because the electricity company was controlled by a Bakiyev relative and fueled the riots last week that pushed him from power.
Yet last week he remained defiant, insisting that he remained Kyrgzstan's president and dismissing the interim government led by Roza Otunbayeva as illegal. But over the weekend the interim government began to take an aggressive stance to the president – lifting his immunity from prosecution and speaking of the need to examine the extensive business empire of his friends and family. In response, Bakiyev has appeared to change his tune.
The BBC reports that he laid out conditions for his resignation in the southern Kyrgyzstan village of Teyit, his hometown. He asked for "a guarantee that the roaming of these armed people ends in Kyrgyzstan, that this redistribution of property and this armed free-for-all stops" and said he would resign "if my personal security and that of my family and my relatives is guaranteed."
At roughly the same time, the Associated Press reported an interview with Ms. Otunbayeva that she would guarantee Bakiyev and his family's safety if he resigns and agrees to leave the country. Otunbayeva also promised that the US air base at Manas, a key hub for resupplying the US war effort in Afghanistan, would remain open after its current lease expires in July.
She did not address the question of corruption trials for Bakiyev and some of his relatives, which have been mooted by some of the interim leaders. The US pays $60 million a year in rent for the Manas air base, but also funnels a further $170 million a year though an oil supply company for the airport controlled by Maksim Bakiyev, the president's 32-year-old son. The oil supply contracts with the US have long been a lucrative sideline for Kyrgyzstan's leaders.
Where will Bakiyev go?
To be sure, Mr. Bakiyev has not yet said he's willing to leave the country. Russia, probably the most important international player in the former Soviet republic, has said it will not take Bakiyev if asked (former President Akayev is, however, living out his exile in Russia). A Hawaiian exile in the US, like Marcos', is also unlikely, given the unsavory list of charges against his government laid out in the State Department's 2009 report on human rights in Kyrgyzstan.
"Arbitrary killing, torture, and abuse by law enforcement officials ... lack of judicial independence; pressure on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and opposition leaders, including government harassment; pressure on independent media; government detention of assembly organizers; authorities' failure to protect refugees adequately; pervasive corruption; discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, and other persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity; child abuse; trafficking in persons; and child labor," were all noted by the State Department.
But for the moment, the fears of a possible civil war or a counter uprising against the interim government, which has promised fresh elections within six months, seems unlikely. The indicators coming out of Kyrgyzstan, at least today, are that a political accommodation between the interim government and Bakiyev is likely to be reached.