On December 3 a Kyrgyz opposition group comprised of leading political parties and organizations presented President Kurmanbek Bakiyev with its suggestions for changes necessary in the country’s political and economic systems. In particular, the group submitted a document adopted at a major meeting on November 29 in Bishkek. The group is comprised of over a dozen NGOs, including Interbilim, Adilet, Taza Tabigat, Mir-Svet Kul’tury, Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, as well as political parties, such as Ata Meken, Akshumkar, Asaba, and the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK).
The November 29 meeting was attended by more than 1,200 members of opposition parties, as well as members of the international community working in Kyrgyzstan (www.akipress.kg, November 29). The event followed another similar gathering on November 18 with different opposition leaders and political parties represented. The November 18 gathering was led by Azimbek Beknazarov, Topchubek Turgunaliyev, Nurlan Motuyev, Anvar Artykov, and former Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu. The second group is led by former Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliyev, head of Ata Meken party Omurbek Tekebayev, head of Akshumkar party Temir Sariyev, head of the SDPK and former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, MPs Roza Otunbayeva and Bakyt Beshimov, former Foreign Minister Alikbek Jekshenkulov, and others.
Both groups demanded that Bakiyev deal with corruption, diminishing freedom of speech, and the current crisis in the hydroelectric sector. While the first movement warned the president that he would be forcefully removed by the public if he continued his corrupt policies, the second group tried to present somewhat more reasonable policies to the president, ensuring him that more action would be taken if he failed to introduce changes by spring. The pervasive corruption in the energy sector was the main concern of both movements.
Following the November 18 opposition gathering, Bakiyev made an apparent attempt to deal with accusations of corruption in the energy sector by sacking Minister of Energy Saparbek Balkibekov, allegedly one of the key politicians involved in illegally selling electricity abroad and driving the country into the present crisis. Bakiyev’s move did not, however, solve the problem, as corruption “pyramids” will probably continue to exist in the sector under Minister of Industry, Energy, and Fuel Resources Ilyas Davydov.
Meanwhile, Bakiyev’s long-time ally Usen Sydykov resigned from the position of state advisor. Sydykov is often referred to as the mastermind of the regime change in March 2005, a sort of “think tank” of the opposition movement against regime of Askar Akayev. Several Kyrgyz observers linked Bakiyev’s decision to his attempt to calm the struggle between two rival pro-presidential groups, one led by Sydykov and the other by Medet Sadyrkulov, head of the presidential administration (see EDM May 30). Others think that Sydykov left the political scene to help Bakiyev stay in power in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2010, by encouraging greater political mobilization in the southern parts of the country where both politicians come from. Bakiyev also increased spending on his personal security service for 2009.
It remains to be seen whether either opposition movement will be able to achieve its goals or Bakiyev will manage to stay in power. Both continue to rely overwhelmingly on primitive mass protests by angry citizens to contest for political power. Rolling blackouts throughout the country help both opposition groups to fuel public anger toward Bakiyev.
The second opposition group, essentially comprised of more talented politicians, seems to be using new methods to challenge the regime by producing specific recommendations for change. This group seeks to collaborate actively with the public and the mass media, while trying to strengthen the role of political parties. Bakiyev himself and his team, however, might not want or be able to build a constructive dialogue. Instead, the government will continue to appoint loyal supporters, while persecuting political activists, threatening independent newspapers, and blocking unwanted Internet sites.
A few Kyrgyz pundits have already speculated that the one or the other movement might want to set off another “revolution” akin to the one in March 2005, when Akayev was ousted. This idea might be in the minds some of opposition leaders, but after more than three years of constant mass protests against the government and pro-regime groups, it is about time to find new ways of practicing political activism.