During his presidency, Kyrgyz leader Askar Akayev had secured guarantees of immunity for himself and members of his family by means of two referenda. Akayev officially resigned on April 3, but his departure did not become official until it was accepted by the Kyrgyz parliament on April 11. During the intervening days, the opposition’s most outspoken leaders, particularly Azimbek Beknazarov, demanded the cancellation of the basic privileges Akayev and his family should have been granted after his resignation.
According to a parliamentary decision on April 8, Akayev was denied the historical status of being the first president of independent Kyrgyzstan (Gazeta.kg, April 10). The parliament also deprived him of the right to a personal security guard (provided by the state) within the territory of Kyrgyzstan, the right to take part in the political life of the country, and diplomatic immunity for his family members (Akipress, April 8). This last clause is especially significant, as Akayev’s wife Mairam, daughter Bermet, and son Aidar, had reputations as particularly corrupt figures within the government. In legal terms this means that Akayev’s family members can now be investigated on corruption charges.
In his recent address to the Kyrgyz public via videotape, Akayev blamed the new government for taking up a dangerous path, stating, “Defending my presidential and civil rights, as well as human dignity, if needed, I will be bound to appeal to the international community that, by no doubt, will condemn the activities and the conduct of those responsible, hold them up to shame” (Akipress, April 8).
However, there seem to be few pro-Akayev supporters left in the government or the parliament. Once steadfast supporters have either moved in favor of the opposition or vacated the political scene altogether. For example, former prime minister Nikolai Tanayev is seeking a new position in Russia, while state secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov abandoned Akayev in the last minutes of his regime. Even the world’s “most famous Kyrgyz,” as locals know him, writer and diplomat Chingiz Aitmatov has spoken against the previous government. There are also former ministers, deputies, and secretaries who rushed to publicly criticize Akayev, as his regime collapsed. In effect, the new parliament elected in February-March, a body intended to become a major pro-Akayev force, has turned against him. Ultimately, 60 out of 63 parliamentarians voted to cancel Akayev’s presidential privileges.
Meanwhile, tensions continue in Bishkek. Usen Kudaibergenov, a close ally of former political prisoner Felix Kulov, was shot dead in his home on April 10. Kudaibergenov played a key role in halting the widespread lootings in Bishkek by dispatching more than 200 people on horseback and protecting the capital’s strategic sites. His assassination was likely a contract murder, and his death will increase instability among the new leadership (Vremya.ru, April 10). The Bishkek City Council has urged the acting government to take action against mass disorders throughout the capital, as there are hundreds of people from rural areas illegally seizing land in the city’s parks.
The Kyrgyz revolution, which originated in the country’s southern half, has spurred even the most indifferent citizens toward increased political participation. Some Kyrgyz are anxious that members of the former regime will instigate troubles similar to the lootings and pogroms that took place after March 24. And although these assumptions are part of a post-revolution discourse among the locals, the general public is now expecting the state budget to increase after eliminating corruption within the country’s major industries and businesses such as customs, energy, tourism, and services. The country is also busy resolving agricultural problems; the political revolution delayed the regular spring planting campaign. This problem is especially acute for the southern residents. The Russian government has agreed to help by donating grain to Kyrgyzstan.
On the international scene, the interim government has secured official support from Russia and the United States. Roza Otunbayeva, acting foreign minister, is planning to visit Moscow in the coming days to meet with Russian officials. She has also conducted meetings with most of the foreign ambassadors in Bishkek. Zamira Sydykova, editor-in chief of Res publica newspaper and the leading candidate to replace the current Kyrgyz Ambassador in Washington, DC, testified at the U.S. Helsinki Commission on April 7 about the developments in Kyrgyzstan. According to Sydykova, Kyrgyzstan will continue to rely on U.S. assistance for the country’s long-term democratic development. An active presence by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United States will be especially important in the new leaders’ efforts to carry out political reforms and build transparent governance.
U.S. Department of State deputy spokesman Adam Ereli confirmed that Washington would continue to assist Kyrgyzstan in 2005, with $31 million earmarked within the Freedom Support Act. If necessary, the government could allocate additional financial aid (Kabar, April 8). There are also reports that the U.S. Congress will appropriate $6.6 million to Kyrgyzstan for the immediate needs of the country.
Parliament has announced new presidential elections will be held on July 10.