The leader of Kyrgyzstan’s opposition Ata-Meken party, Omurbek Tekebayev, has raised the stakes in his face-off with the president by announcing that he is laying the groundwork for impeachment proceedings.
News website K-News cited Tekebayev as saying on November 22 that Almazbek Atambayev had left himself open to the move by openly supporting his former party, the Social Democratic Party, or SDPK, in violation of the constitution.
“In February, a new political party council was formed and it included all the president’s entourage — Farid Niyazov, Albek Ibraimov, Ikramzhan Ilmiyanov, Kubanychbek Kulmatov. All of them occupy some kind of position in the presidential apparatus or are somehow dependant on him, and they don’t make a secret of it,” Tekebayev said.
Tekebayev is in effect saying what everybody already knows, since the SDPK, while not de facto led by Atambayev, is indissolubly associated with the president. To point out the emperor has no clothes is a transparent political provocation, however.
“The position of SDPK chairman is still not filled. Why? Maybe it is because he [Atambayev] still leads the party?” he said.
Tekebayev said that the influence of the SPDK extends even further. While the party only holds 38 out of the 120 seats in the Zhogorku Kenesh, or parliament, 15 out of 18 government ministries are headed by SDPK representatives, according to the leader of Ata-Meken, which holds 11 seats. Tekebayev said that of the remaining three ministers, two are from the Kyrgyzstan party — which has 18 deputies in parliament and is widely viewed as a stalking horse for the SDPK — and another is from Bir Bol, which has 12 MPs.
Kyrgyzstan’s most improbable political alliance — between the parties of southern, nationalist firebrand Kamchybek Tashiyev and the northern, business-oriented former prime minister Omurbek Babanov — has crumbled just ahead of next month’s local council elections.
The uneasy tandem act joining Tashiyev’s Ata Jurt and Babanov’s Respublika was first announced in October 2014 and was viewed at the time as likely a short-term proposition. Few partnerships have ever seemed as peculiar. Tashiyev is an easily angered ex-boxer most comfortable conveying his political positions with his fists. Babanov is a wealthy urbanite skilled at operating behind scenes.
In an attempt to convince the public that their alliance had arisen from genuine personal sympathy, Babanov posted pictures on his Facebook account of him horse-playing with Tashiyev in the picturesque snowdrifts of the Suusamyr Valley. The scene drew much ribald commentary.
“A true romance! Kamchike grabbed some snow in his sledgehammer-like fist. With his other hand he grabbed Omuke by the neck and rubbed the snow in Omuke’s face. And Omurbek enjoyed it. He loved it. It was amazing,” one newspaper, Aibat, reported at the time.
Against all expectations, the union kept more or less fast for two years. Together the parties won 28 of the 120 parliamentary seats up for grabs in the 2015 elections, making it the second biggest faction in the legislature after President Almazbek Atambayev’s Social Democratic Party.
Numerous objectors to plans to tinker with Kyrgyzstan’s constitution have found themselves reportedly object of criminal investigations in a worrying sign the country may be slipping back to old authoritarian ways.
President Almazbek Atambayev’s office on November 14 released details of his meeting with Abdil Segizbayev, head of the State Committee for National Security (GKNB), whose anticorruption department is increasingly said to serve as a stick with which to beat government critics.
At the meeting, Segizbayev is said to have informed Atambayev of materials supposedly provided to the government by the authorities of Belize, in central America, linking unnamed politicians to offshore companies purportedly set up to help benefit the hated son of deposed president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
The online statement did not identify the suspected figures, but it does mischievously leave their names clearly visible on documents shown in accompanying illustrative photos. They include former Justice Minister Almanbet Shykmamatov, former general prosecutor Aida Salyanova and leading politician Omurbek Tekebayev — all three members of the now-opposition Ata-Meken party.
Ata-Meken quit the ruling coalition last month in protest at the proposed constitutional reforms, which are designed to bolster the authority of the executive branch and reduce that of parliament and the judiciary.
Kyrgyzstan’s parliament endorsed the composition of a tweaked cabinet on November 9 that will be backed by a new, slimmed-down coalition and led by an unchanged prime minister firmly allied to single-term President Almazbek Atambayev.
MPs voted 114 to 4 to endorse Jeenbekov’s reshaped cabinet wherein the most eyebrow-raising appointment was that of Ulan Israilov, Atambayev's former bodyguard and the ex-head of the government's main anti-corruption inspectorate, as Interior Minister.
Among other additions, Cholpon Sultanbekova, a member of the pro-Atambayev Kyrgyzstan party and most famous as the widow of a former mob boss from the south of the country, took up the position of deputy prime minister for social affairs.
Jamshitbek Kalilov became the new transport minister with predecessor Zamirbek Aidarov presently under investigation by Israilov's former unit for corruption in a road tender won by a Chinese company.
The overwhelming parliamentary backing for the new government has become a tradition in Kyrgyzstan's mixed political system and does not mean that all is well in the legislature.
Two parties previously in the ruling coalition, Onuguu Progress and Ata-Meken are no longer part of the alliance that collapsed last month following their opposition to a controversial, Atambayev-driven referendum set to take place on December 11.
That leaves Atambayev's Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) governing along with the Kyrgyzstan party that survived the collapse and new entrants Bir Bol.
Kyrgyzstan has introduced new migration rules for visiting foreign citizens that limit unregistered stays in the country from 60 to five days.
The rule is intended to combat illegal migration, although there are concerns that it could harm the country’s fledging tourism sector.
The law, which was proposed by the Interior Ministry in May and received backing from parliament, will come into force on November 4.
Almost all foreigners will be required to register within five days or face a $145 fine. The only country exempt from the rule is Russia, which has signed a bilateral agreement with Kyrgyzstan requiring its citizens to register only for stays longer than 30 days.
It is not yet clear that the government departments responsible for registering foreigners are even going to be able to cope with the sudden increase in foreigners requiring registration given that they already struggle to cope with large amounts of Kyrgyz citizens applying for passports, birth certificates and other local documents.
And of course, there is also serious concern this new situation will simply give rise to more corruption, since many might prefer to part with cash instead dealing with inefficient Kyrgyz bureaucracy.
An explanatory note with the newly adopted regulation explains that the move was prompted by anxieties over illegal migration.
“Foreign citizens open various private companies, joint ventures and other organizations, and bring in their compatriots, violating established procedures,” the note reads. “Foreign citizens working in the republic mostly do so without work permits, therefore they are violating the migration laws of the Kyrgyz Republic.”
Chinese premier Li Keqiang visits the Chinese embassy in Bishkek on November 3, inspecting the reconstruction after it was attacked by a suicide bomber in August. (photo: www.gov.cn)
China's prime minister, on a visit to Bishkek, called the security situation in Central Asia "complicated and severe" and promised to deepen security cooperation with Kyrgyzstan.
The Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, made the comments during a prime ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on November 2. The meeting took place as authorities continue to investigate an August suicide attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, two months on it remains unclear who the organizers were or what were their motives.
The statements by officials from the two countries -- at least as they were reported by Chinese media -- suggested a China who was taking charge, and a Kyrgyzstan which was trying to keep China happy.
"Li expressed his hope that Kyrgyzstan will speed up the investigation and handling of the incident, provide support and assistance, and take necessary measures to ensure the safety of Chinese staff posted in Kyrgyzstan," the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. Li also visited the embassy to check on the reconstruction.
Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov in turn promised that Bishkek would "take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the Chinese embassy and its staff" and "enhance cooperation with China in security law enforcement, fight the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and safeguard security and stability of the two countries and the region as a whole," according to Xinhua.
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have reached an agreement on 49 non-demarcated sections of the border, signaling another positive development in neighborly relations.
Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 1 that the accord was the result of field surveys by working groups in the Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Batken on October 22-31.
This momentum is the result of a telephone conversation on October 26 between Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev and acting Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who discussed the mutual advantageousness of successfully concluding joint work on delimitation, the Uzbek statement said.
Further working group coordination is due to take place in Uzbekistan.
The language about the agreements on disputed sections of the border remains provisional so far, but the number is impressive all the same. The border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is almost 1,400 kilometers long, but 324 kilometers of it in almost 60 separate locations have heretofore remained unresolved.
Such uncertainty has precipitated on occasion in flareups along unmarked portions of the border. Earlier this year, Uzbek troops parked armored personnel carriers along a Kyrgyz road in one such spot in a reprisal at Kyrgyz unwillingness to allow Uzbek workers to travel freely to a reservoir under their management.
A witness at an appeal hearing into the case of jailed rights activist Azimjan Askarov told a court in Kyrgyzstan’s Chui court on November 1 that she was forced to testify against him under duress.
Minura Mamadalieva, who was also Askarov’s co-defendant at the initial trial following ethnic unrest in 2010, said that she yielded to pressure after she and her six-year old son were subjected to mistreatment by the police, 24.kg reported.
Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek, was given a life sentence in September 2010 after being found guilty of inciting a crowd to murder a police officer on June 13 that year during deadly inter-communal riots in the southern town of Bazar-Korgon. He has always steadfastly maintained his innocence.
By recanting, Mamadalieva has placed further strain on the state’s deeply compromised case against Askarov, whose plight has drawn indignations from many international organizations and governments.
Speaking to the court, Mamadalieva said she was detained on June 26, 2010, and taken to Bazar Korgon police station, where she claimed she was ordered to stump up $5,000. Mamadalieva also said she was told by police that Askarov had testified against her, somehow implicating her in the violence, so that she do the same and offer testimony placing the activist at the bridge where the policeman is said to have been murdered.
“But I did not see Askarov there, I was not there. They made me sign to all this,” she said. “They said they would put my child behind bars. The police beat us, the detainees, they almost made us eat dirt. Including Askarov. This is the kind of unbridled behavior the Bazar-Korgon police station was getting up to.”
A delegation of senior officials from Uzbekistan has paid a visit to neighboring Kyrgyzstan, reciprocating a trip earlier this month that presaged a possible thaw in relations between the two nations.
The 47-person delegation that traveled to Krygyzstan’s Osh region on October 26 was led by Uzbek deputy Prime Minister Adham Ikramov and also comprised the heads of the Andijan, Namangan and Ferghana regions, representatives of several government agencies, including the National Security Service, and members of the Kyrgyz diaspora.
As happened during the visit to Uzbekistan in early October, the officials passed through the Dustlik (“Friendship”) border crossing, which sits adjacent to Osh and has lain unused for many years.
So far, these encounters have focused primarily on pleasantries. The Kyrgyz hosts laid on a series of cultural events under the gaze of the giant statue of Vladimir Lenin in the center of Osh.
"During the visit, the delegation visited Osh State University, where they learned about the activities of the medicine faculty. Addressing the students, Adham Ikramov spoke of the inviolability of friendship and good neighborliness between the two countries. He stressed that good neighborly relations between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan should become a cornerstone for the further development of joint cooperation,” Uzbek news website gazeta.uz reported.
The government in Kyrgyzstan has collapsed after weeks of sniping between coalition members over contentious constitutional reform plans.
The Social Democratic Party (SDPK) declared in a statement on October 24 that it is leaving the four-party coalition.
Objections to amending the 2010 constitution had been voiced most strongly by the left-leaning Ata-Meken party, which all the while resisted pressure for it to initiate the breakup of the ruling coalition.
In an illustration of the seriousness of its disagreement with Ata-Meken, SPDK accused the party of being in cahoots with the deposed leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
“We cannot be in one coalition with those that, as it turns out, share common interests with the Akayevs and Bakiyevs, and who follow their instructions. With those who oppose the interests of the country. It became especially obvious during the constitutional reform,” the party claimed in official statement.
There is no immediate evidence that Ata-Meken have engaged in any dialogue with either of the country’s former leaders.
The outgoing coalition was formed by four political parties soon after the parliamentary elections in October. It constituent parties included the SPDK party of President Almazbek Atambayev, the mostly pro-government Kyrgyzstan Party, the agrarian issues-dominated Onuguu-Progress and Ata Meken. Two other parties, Bir Bol and Respublika-Ata Zhurt, remain in the opposition’s ranks.
The initiative to tinker with the current constitution has been steadily gathering pace since July. Backers of the fix have proposed around 30 amendments, which are due to be put to the population in a referendum in December.