Social problems kept in check during the authoritarian era of former president Askar Akayev are already surfacing in Kyrgyzstan, three weeks after he was removed from office by protesters angry at election results, grinding poverty and corruption by the ruling family.

On 7 April, tension was raised when people began to seize land on the southern outskirts of the capital Bishkek, demanding that they be granted legal title that they say they were deprived of under the former regime. They say they are part of a 14,000-strong movement demanding access to lucrative real estate close to the capital.

Protest leaders established headquarters in traditional dome-shaped yurt tents on the edge of the city, while others roped off land plots they said corrupt Akayev-era officials had prevented them from buying.

But the protest has attracted a number of opportunists eager to exploit the current lack of substantive authority in the country, like Muratbek, a poor southerner who came north to the capital to seek a better life. When he heard rumours of the land grab, he was quick to join in.

“This is the land of people and everybody has a right to it. Moreover, we overthrew Akayev and we are entitled to be rewarded for that,” Muratbek told IRIN, pointing out the plot he says he now owns, delineated by string from that of a neighbour’s. ~Reuters

For those uninterested in such legal niceties as property rights or the lawful transfers of title, I’m sure the Bishkek land grab seems wonderful. But it is yet another example of the lawlessness and disorder that has attended the Kyrgyz coup from the beginning. The difference between the land seizures in Kyrgyzstan and those in Zimbabwe seems mainly to be that the Kyrgyz coup leaders are not openly encouraging this activity, but remain, as they have been since the beginning, utterly powerless to stop it. They have ridden a wave of discontent and now find themselves helpless to stem the tide as it now threatens their rule. Either the Kyrgyz coup leaders will follow the methods of the 1848 revolutionaries in Vienna and suppress their poorer fellow revolutionaries, or they may find themselves unseated by those more willing to “reward” the people. Practicing demagogy and then failing to keep control of the people who have been incited simply becomes open lawlessness. This is the face of “people power” in action.