One month after the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the new government headed by interim president Kurmanbek Bakiyev is facing extensive criticism of its slow and sometimes ambiguous political program. The Kyrgyz mass media has condemned Bakiyev for taking foolish steps in building the interim government and failing to satisfy the expectations of the ordinary people who made regime change possible. Yet others blame former president Askar Akayev for multiple mistakes that have led to a turbulent beginning for the new political order.
First, Bakiyev’s interim government has been accused of a lack of transparency in appointing new cabinet members. Bakiyev is criticized for distributing cabinet seats based on a desire to strengthen his personal status in the emerging political regime rather than making choices that would help to build an efficient government. For example, his decision to appoint Adakhan Madumarov, a potential presidential candidate, as a fourth deputy prime minister raised intense public discontent. This move is regarded as an attempt to balance political forces and shield preferred candidates from potential rivals. After assuming the new post, Madumarov become the third deputy prime minister to support Bakiyev, along with Daniyar Usenov and Ishenkul Boldzhurova. In response, Bakiyev announced that he would suspend appointments for now in order to avoid escalating grievances (Akipress, April 14).
Second, the Kyrgyz parliament and the Bishkek City Council have criticized Bakiyev for his inability to restore order in the capital following the political upheaval. In the last two weeks, up to 50,000 peasants seized land plots in Bishkek and demanded ownership rights. The squatters have created an atmosphere of chaos throughout Bishkek, disturbing the normal life of city residents by blocking roads, pitching tents, and increasing crime rates. The government has been slow in responding to the accumulating problem. The Bishkek city militia could not prevent the spontaneous land seizures, so a people’s guard comprised of several hundred volunteers are also patrolling Bishkek’s main streets. The situation considerably worsened, however, when unknown shooters murdered Usen Kudaibergenov, the leader of the civilian patrols, on April 10.
Third, rumors have spread about alleged discrimination against the ethnic Russian minority in the wake of the Akayev regime’s collapse. The number of Russians and other Slavic nationalities seeking immigration at the Russian Embassy in Bishkek has noticeably increased. The Russian Ambassador to Bishkek, Yevgeny Shmagin, confirmed that the number of applications for immigration has tripled since the recent political changes in Kyrgyzstan (Liter.kz, April 19). But the ambassador also confirmed that the influx is at least partly explained by Russians’ uncertainty over the future. The ethnic Russian population would prefer to see former vice president Felix Kulov become president, rather than Bakiyev. The Uzbek minority in southern Kyrgyzstan, in turn, trusts Bakiyev more than other candidates.
On April 14 Bermet Akayeva, daughter of the ousted president, returned to Bishkek to claim the legislative seat she won in the February 27 parliamentary elections. Her return provoked mixed reactions among other legislators as well as the general public. Members of the pro-Akayev “Alga, Kyrgyzstan” party labeled her sudden appearance an act of courage, deserving admiration.
Yet others, such as MP Dooronbek Sadyrbayev and Speaker of Parliament Omurbek Tekebayev, called her decision to return to Kyrgyzstan an attempt to destabilize the situation in the country. Several hundred people gathered in front of the Kyrgyz parliament building on April 15 to demand Akayeva’s resignation (Moya stolitsa novosti, April 19). Anti-Bermet Akayeva riots also erupted in Talas, the hometown of former first lady Mairam Akayeva.
Parliamentary Speaker Tekebayev publicly announced that the Central Election Commission will examine the cases of the Akayev children elected to parliament, namely Bermet and her brother Aidar, and that the investigation will be finalized in three days. He hinted that the CEC decision might not go in favor of the Akayevs and that both parliamentarians might lose their mandates (Kyrgyzinfo, April 18).
The National Security Service has launched a legal case against Akayeva’s husband, Kazakh businessman Adil Toigonbayev, accusing him of high-level corruption in the Kyrgyz business sector (Kabar, April 19). Acting President Bakiyev signed a decree ordering a legal investigation into the Akayev family’s properties and those of his political team. According to acting Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva and other Kyrgyz public figures, the government will crack down on property illegally owned by previous regime activists and Akayev family members, but at the same time avoid re-privatization.
Amid the criticism and numerous legal actions against the former regime, the Kyrgyz interim government is showing signs of greater consolidation. Two visible political forces are emerging on the country’s political scene led by Bakiyev and Kulov, for whom Madumarov and Atambayev agreed to renounce their personal ambitions and back the more popular candidates for the presidency (Akipress, April 18). Whereas Bakiyev has stronger support in the newly formed cabinet and within the southern region, Kulov is supported by the majority of the Kyrgyz population. For now the two leaders are not engaged in open confrontation, but as the election date nears, the competition between the two will inevitably become more pronounced.