On February 13, Kyrgyz Parliamentary Speaker Omurbek Tekebayev confirmed his decision to resign following a shocking clash with Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
In his address to the legislature on February 3, Bakiyev criticized the parliamentarians for intrigues, laziness, and corruption. The president called parliamentarians “puppets and puppeteers,” hinting that a group is able to manipulate the entire legislature. Bakiyev bullied Tekebayev in particular, indirectly accusing him of attempts to seize state power. “It is frightening to think what would happen if the country changes into a parliamentary system,” Bakiyev speculated. Many parliamentarians found the president’s criticism unfair and inappropriate.
Tekebayev responded by harshly criticizing Bakiyev for repeating mistakes made by the previous president, Askar Akayev. He accused him of widespread embezzlement, corrupt privatization, and slow progress adopting bills prepared by the parliament. Tekebayev stressed that by voluntarily leaving the post of parliamentary speaker after the president’s provocation, he wants to forestall a further escalation of political tensions. Both deputy speakers, Bolot Sherniyazov and Erkin Alymbekov, also resigned.
The conflict between the president and the parliamentary speaker affected the Security Council session on February 9. Bakiyev refused to attend the session if Tekebayev were to be present as well. The speaker ignored the president’s ultimatum, but was aggressively confronted by the head of the president’s administration, Usen Sydykov, who claimed that Tekebayev has “no moral right to participate in the session after the recent incident.” According to former prosecutor-general Azimbek Beknazarov, Bakiyev’s attempt to prevent the speaker from attending the Security Council meeting lacked legitimacy. Meanwhile, members of Tekebayev’s Ata-Meken political party collected several dozens of protestors in the city of Bazarkorgoon (Jalalabad oblast) to support their leader.
Tekebayev has served in the parliament without interruption since 1991. He ran for the presidency in 1995 in an electoral bloc with current Prime Minister Felix Kulov. He served as a deputy speaker in the 2000-2005 parliament. Tekebayev was one of the major participants of the movement against former Kyrgyz president Akayev in spring 2005. However, he later became increasingly critical of Bakiyev’s policies.
The reaction of the Kyrgyz parliamentarians to Tekebayev’s decision to resign was diverse. Most agreed that a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the president and speaker is necessary to preserve political stability. Parliamentarian Sultan Urmanayev pleaded with Bakiyev and Tekebayev to set aside their personal differences and find a compromise. Bakiyev was condemned for his reluctance to participate in dialogues with the parliament and underappreciating the role of the parliamentary speaker.
While Bakiyev lost yet another comrade from the March 24 Tulip Revolution, his scandal with Tekebayev added to the ongoing political crisis in the country. It remains unclear who will be able to gain the position of speaker of parliament after Tekebayev’s resignation. There are a number of prospective candidates, but, as noted by parliamentarian Melis Eshimkanov, none has enough support to win a majority of the parliament’s vote. Eshimkanov also added, “It will be better if the parliament dissolves, because it was susceptible to the president’s provocations. We could not defend the parliament speaker…We turned out to be cowards.”
Bakiyev’s attack on parliament widened the gap between him and the legislature. It decreased chances for collaboration and propelled a number of parliamentarians to take a stronger position against the president. Bakiyev showed that he is not willing to grant the parliament more rights and will try to increase his own powers. The power struggle between the president and the government will likely intensify as the national referendum approaches in the next few months.
Bakiyev’s offensive against Tekebayev has harmed his public approval rating. Since Tekebayev is among the most popular political figures in Kyrgyzstan, the public condemned the president and showed stronger support for the parliament. Such an increase in public confidence in the parliament might result in the Kyrgyz public choosing a parliamentary and not presidential state structure at the national referendum. As Tekebayev declared in his February 13 address to parliament, “We [parliament] worked in the most difficult moral conditions, when our colleagues were killed, when we were threatened, when signatures for our resignation were being collected throughout the country. We did not fight with anyone, but we have won.”
(Akipress, February 3-13; Kabar February 3-13; Obshchestvenny reiting, February 10)