Kyrgyz Revolution: Taking a Turn in an Unpredictable Direction
Kyrgyzstan's revolution is veering off in an unpredictable direction. Persistent infighting and controversial political appointments are raising doubts about the provisional government's ability to promote civil society. Already, several alarming trends are evident that, if left unaddressed by the provisional government, could create new sources of dispute and frustration among Kyrgyz citizens.
All branches of Kyrgyzstan's provisional government remain bogged down in political matters connected with President Askar Akayev's abrupt and messy downfall on March 24. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Some local political analysts say the governmental paralysis is largely connected with a "wild scramble for power" among members of the new political elite. In the weeks and months leading up to Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary election in February, which proved to be the revolution's detonator, top members of the erstwhile opposition to Akayev set aside personal ambitions and rivalries to forge a united front against the president. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Now that Akayev has departed from the scene, the glue keeping the provisional government together seems to be rapidly decaying, with the briefly suppressed internal rivalries quickly reasserting themselves.
The executive branch, headed by the provisional government's leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has come under broad attack for its personnel policy. According to critics, Bakiyev and others in the leadership are trying to pack the top levels of Kyrgyzstan's bureaucracy with friends and family members, essentially repeating a pattern followed by Akayev.
In highlighting the problems plaguing personnel appointments, the MSN newspaper, formerly a leading anti-Akayev news outlet, focused on the actions on interim Finance Minister Akylbek Japarov. A letter from a "group of businessmen" published April 5 by the newspaper complained that Japarov is gutting the staff at the ministry, replacing them with relatives and members of his own clan, which hails from the Naryn Region in eastern Kyrgyzstan. "For example, the new head of the Bishkek tax inspectorate is Nurlan Japarov, the interim minister's brother. The head of customs at Bishkek airport has become Nurlan Makeyev, a relative of Japarov," the letter stated. Corruption within the ministry is rampant under Japarov, the letter claimed.
Bakiyev has faced criticism for supposedly basing policy decisions on personal political considerations, rather than the state's interests. Bakiyev is a leading contender to become Kyrgyzstan's president once elections are held. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. But he is expected to face spirited competition from other influential politicians, including Feliks Kulov. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Kulov's decision to resign as the provisional government's security coordinator is widely seen as driven by displeasure over Bakiyev's personnel moves. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Political analysts are also linking the inability of parliament to resolve Akayev's political fate to the growing power struggle. Clarifying Akayev's status is seen as an essential element in placing the actions of Kyrgyzstan's government back on solid constitutional ground. The Kyrgyz legislature has wrestled for four days with the issue of Akayev's resignation, which was tendered in Moscow April 4 in a deal brokered by Parliament Speaker Omurbek Tekebayev. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Ratification of the resignation has met with stiff resistance from some MPs, who say the parliament should impeach Akayev instead.
On April 8, the Kyrgyz parliament took action that would seem to preclude Akayev's possible return to Kyrgyzstan, voting to strip the former president's family members of immunity from prosecution. In addition, parliament imposed a ban on Akayev's future participation in the country's political process. At the same time, MPs again deferred debate on the central issue whether or not to accept Akayev's resignation until April 11.
Some observers place a significant amount of blame on Bakiyev for the drawn-out debate on Akayev's resignation. Bakiyev, according to political analysts Dinara Karatayeva and Alexandr Gabuyev, may be working to prevent acceptance of the resignation out of a desire to check the growing political influence of Tekebayev, the parliament speaker.
"By securing Askar Akayev's voluntary resignation, parliament Speaker Omurbek Tekebayev significantly increased his own political capital," Karatayeva and Gabuyev wrote in an analysis published April 7 in the Russian daily Kommersant. "It is well known, however, that he [Tekebayev] is a long-time enemy of Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Now, in order to eclipse Mr. Tekebayev's achievements, Mr. Bakiyev may try to push through the procedure for impeaching Mr. Akayev."
While Akayev remains the subject of parliamentary debate, Kulov stands at the center of the judicial branch's attention. The country's Supreme Court has reviewed the two criminal convictions against Kulov that resulted in his jailing in 2001. Kulov -- a former top Akayev lieutenant-turned-arch-foe -- insists that the abuse-of-power charges against him were politically motivated. The high court has appeared inclined to side with Kulov, having already dismissed one of the convictions against him. The hearing on the possible reversal of the second charge is scheduled to resume April 11. Overturning the convictions would clear the way for Kulov's presidential bid.
When the election will be held is uncertain. The vote had been set for June 26, according to a resolution adopted by Kyrgyzstan's former, bicameral legislature adopted shortly after Akayev's ouster. The new unicameral legislature, subsequently recognized as Kyrgyzstan's legitimate Parliament, repealed the resolution on April 7. A new election date will be set only after parliament resolves the lingering questions concerning Akayev.
While Kyrgyzstan's government remains inwardly focused, political and social upheaval continues to sweep across the country. In connection with the March 24 events in Bishkek, governing structures in regions and towns across Kyrgyzstan have become engulfed in turmoil, with new leaders, claiming a popular mandate, striving to replace Akayev-era appointees in key positions of authority. The process has gone on largely unchecked by any constitutional restraint, deepening the dilemma about the legitimacy of Kyrgyzstan's new political order.
The situation is especially troublesome in southern Kyrgyz regions, where a condition of "dual-power" exists in many areas of Jalal-Abad and Osh provinces, the Kabar news agency reported. A Kabar report on April 8 said Bakiyev has established two working groups to help sort out questions related to local governing structures. However, the working group responsible for southern Kyrgyzstan, headed by Bakiyev's chief of staff, Usen Sydykov, seems to have helped fuel controversy in the region's largest city, Osh. Despite support from a minority of members of the city council, Sydykov issued a decision appointing a Bakiyev loyalist as interim mayor of Osh, Kabar said, citing a report in the Zhani Muun newspaper.
Another disturbing trend concerns the spontaneous seizure of land. Squatters, many of them reportedly from poor regions of southern Kyrgyzstan, have flooded into Bishkek, occupying undeveloped plots of land, mainly on the outskirts of the city. Some people have already started to build homes on land to which they do not have clear title. Others have started re-selling land plots that they have staked out, despite the lack of a deed. The unregulated occupation of land could easily become a source of social tension in the capital, local experts believe. Kabar quoted Bishkek's chief architect, Kanybek Narbayev, as saying the rapid influx of squatters could lead to overcrowding in the capital.
Rather than try to bring order to the process, some political analysts wonder whether Bakiyev, whose political base is in the South, is tacitly encouraging southerners to move to Bishkek. They note that several southern-based political organizations, such as the People's Hope movement and the March 24 Revolution Committee, are reported to have participated in land seizures in and around Bishkek.
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