Informality and corruption in Kyrgyzstan at the national (macro) level
The research in Kyrgyzstan has focused on informality and corruption at the national (macro) level, as well as at the local (micro level). The macro level report examines the dialectical relationship of formal and informal governance and its effects on corruption in Kyrgyzstan.
One of the key insights is that despite a significant change in the formal political system – from a presidential to a parliamentary system – the logic of informal governance, with its rules and practices, remains in place and is widely applied behind the façade of the formal frameworks.
In order to understand why political reforms and anti-corruption movements have failed, the research report focuses on practices of informal governance that succeeded in blocking such reforms. Due to their flexible and entrenched nature, practices of informal governance are capable of adapting to different formal political systems and therefore continuously compromise institutional development and control of corruption outcomes.
Nonetheless, informal governance has not been entirely effective in generating long term political stability in Kyrgyzstan, in fact, the corruption excesses of the Kyrgyz political elites have twice led to social uprisings – the 'Tulip' Revolution in 2005 and the 'Rose' Revolution in 2010 – that have overthrown the government in relatively bloodless revolts. However, in both cases, the incoming political elites reverted to practices similar to those of the regimes they helped to topple.
In that regard, building and cultivating informal networks among elites is a common practice in Kyrgyz politics. The first two presidents of Kyrgyzstan after independence, Askar Akaev (1991-2005) and Kurmanbek Bakiev (2005-2010), governed in a very similar manner, building exclusive networks of regime insiders on the basis of kinship, lineage, village, rayon, and oblast. Under both presidents, powerful informal networks were spread across the state apparatus and business sectors. Many insiders were businessmen-turned-state officials while others were favoured relatives of political figures- turned- entrepreneurs. So, there was a symbiosis of kinship, business, and politics.
As the research suggests, these networks are not built simply out of pragmatic considerations but co-opted individuals need to fulfil certain criteria concerning kinship, loyalty, obligation and hospitality. The research highlights how the entrenched persistence of corruption in the country can be linked to practices that are embedded in local values and expectations such as reciprocity and exchange. Thus, the research points to the importance of “soft” control mechanisms relating to social reputation, status and trustworthiness, which should not be underestimated because kinship-affective values work to entrench informal practices by virtue of combining emotions with rationality.