Last week Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev named former prime minister Felix Kulov to head the government again. This reappointment followed the Kyrgyz government’s resignation and the adoption of another new constitution in December 2006, the second in two months. If the parliament approves Kulov’s candidacy, it will succumb to Bakiyev’s shrewd politics. However, if the parliament refuses Kulov, it will increase its chances of being dismissed. In both scenarios the president seems likely to emerge as a winner.
Bakiyev allowed — and perhaps encouraged — the government’s resignation in December to provoke a crisis in the parliament. According to the constitution adopted on November 8, 2006, which striped the president of his powers, the parliament was to form a new government. However, at least two constitutional provisions were not met: the parliament did not have the necessary one-party majority and it was not comprised of 90 members. Bakiyev quickly came up with another constitution that increased his ability to form the cabinet (see EDM, January 4). The parliament, including the opposition bloc For Reforms, was pressed to vote for the new constitution to avert an escalation of its internal crisis. Although the December 2006 constitution still promotes a parliamentary-presidential republic, Bakiyev seems to have tricked the parliament in a major way.
Bakiyev’s domestic image is now at its low point. He has a reputation as a corrupt politician with a rural mindset who is unable to speak either Kyrgyz or Russian fluently. His closest relatives are being accused of corruption. Bakiyev has six younger brothers (one passed away recently) and two sons, all of who occupy high-ranking positions in national security structures, serve in the foreign service, or are engaged in large-scale businesses.
One brother, Zhanybek Bakiyev, is a former deputy chair of the National Security Service (NSS). He graduated from the Higher Militia School of the USSR in Karaganda city, Kazakhstan, and had served in the Kyrgyz intelligence services and criminal investigation department. Kulov, a former interior minister with a background in Soviet security structures, supported Zhanybek’s appointment to the NSS. Since both Kulov and Zhanybek served in Soviet-era intelligence structures, they have connections to similar structures in other former Soviet states, including Russia.
Zhanybek is believed to be at the root of the intrigue around MP Omurbek Tekebayev in September 2006 (see EDM, September 12). He reportedly worked together with the Kazakh security services to arrest Tekebayev for allegedly transporting heroin en route to Warsaw. Although Zhanybek denied any complicity regarding the intrigue, the president nevertheless suspended him from his position until the investigations are completed. In December 2006 he sued the parliament for its attempt to prevent him from working at the NSS. Besides Zhanybek, Bakiyev’s elder son Marat also works at the NSS.
Bakiyev’s youngest brother, also named Marat, is the country’s ambassador in Berlin. Kyrgyzstan’s embassy in Germany is considered to be the most profitable of all foreign representations. Due to a large community of Kyrgyz citizens living there, mainly ethnic Germans and Jews who moved to Germany in the 1990s, the embassy collects considerable revenues from administrative fees. Marat does not speak German and has no background in diplomatic service.
Adyl, another presidential brother, is a trade representative in China. Given Kyrgyzstan’s increasing trade with its Asian neighbor, this position is among the most coveted in the national economic sector. Bakiyev’s two other brothers, Akhmat and Kanybek, are less known to the wider public. They both reportedly run their own farms in Jalalabad, the Bakiyev’s family’s native region.
Bakiyev’s younger son, Maxim, is another controversial figure from Bakiyev’s clan. He is often compared to Aidar Akayev, son of former president Askar Akayev. Using their political connections, both Maxim and Aidar are infamous for their pervasive engagement in the country’s most lucrative businesses. Unlike Aidar, however, Maxim allegedly prefers to invest in businesses outside Kyrgyzstan.
With such an extensive family network encompassing politics and business, Bakiyev is able to manipulate unwanted figures through indirect ways. A number of opposition leaders have recently experienced difficulties with the law-enforcement structures, for example, opposition MP Temir Sariyev was detained at the Manas airport on January 9 (Regnum, January 9). Azimbek Beknazarov, another MP and former Bakiyev supporter, explained why he now intends to be in the opposition: “President Bakiyev is continuing the tradition of family rule over the country, similar to that of ex-state leader Askar Akayev” (Akipress, January 17).
With Bakiyev’s open intrigues around constitutional reform and his bold attempts to press the opposition, his public support continues to fall. Instead of actively working to improve the national economy and contribute to democratization, Bakiyev keeps on inventing new ways to preserve his own power over other political actors and institutions. As one Kyrgyz observer summed up the public’s general opinion, “Bakiyev is stupid; but canny too.”
(24.kg, December 20, 2006; Fergana.ru, March 10,2006; Akipress, September 6-14, 2006)