One week after taking over state power, Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government members have met with various social and political groups, including businessmen, judges, leaders of diasporas, and journalists. The main message the government wants to deliver is that no one in the country will again depend solely on a ruling family, or be afraid that they might be interrogated by the state. According to the new power’s rhetoric, no one leader will be able to dominate in the new political setting.
At this point, the provisional government is working towards creating a “road map” to define its future action. Soon, it will announce what steps it will take to ensure its own legitimacy. The head of the provisional government, Roza Otunbayeva, insists that the new leadership’s legitimacy will be strengthened as it “returns power to the people.” Indeed, the new leadership is dominated by parties with a leftist leaning.
Although members of the provisional government claim that only a legitimate state body elected in free and fair elections would be able to take major political decisions, most of them hope to be part of that government.
Some visible changes are already evident in Kyrgyzstan. The national media is free, Radio Free Europe has resumed its broadcasts, and strategic economic sites privatized by Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s son, Maksim, have been re-nationalized. “The Kyrgyz government is currently forming according to ‘revolutionary loyalty,’ those who fought against Bakiyev’s regime are appointed to key posts,” the Chief of Staff, Edil Baisalov, told Jamestown. Although not everyone in the provisional government possesses the necessary professional credentials, Baisalov insists that the main goal today is to form a power structure able to establish control across the country.
The tone of Kyrgyz-US relations are unlikely to change in the coming six months, until the government implements constitutional reform, and holds a referendum and parliamentary elections. The US Assistant Secretary of State for the South Caucasus and Central Asia, Robert Blake, is currently visiting Bishkek. After meeting with Otunbayeva, Blake said that the US will support Kyrgyzstan’s new leadership. Meanwhile, Otunbayeva, plans to visit Washington to meet officials there.
The new leadership in Bishkek has avoided announcing any major decision on the US Transit Center at Manas. Yet, relations with Russia have been boosted after several provisional government representatives visited Moscow and secured a $20 million financial aid package and an additional $30 million credit (www.1tv.ru, April 14). Overall, the popular mood in Bishkek suggests that most are angry with US hypocrisy towards Bakiyev’s regime.
Meanwhile, Kurmanbek Bakiyev is refusing to resign until the provisional government guarantees him and his family full security. He is hiding in central Jalabad, using the local population as a shield against the provisional government’s persecution. The new leadership stripped him of immunity and issued arrest warrants for his two brothers, and Maksim, who is reportedly currently hiding in Latvia (www.lenta.ru, April 14).
Several members of the provisional government have announced that to arrest Bakiyev they would resort to a “special operation” that implies forceful capture of the president (www.akipress.kg, April 12). Reports also suggest that the provisional government initially planned to implement the operation early this week. However, due to the high risk of more civilian causalities it was prevented from pursuing such a strategy. How Bakiyev will choose to exit the political scene remains unpredictable.
For now, Bakiyev continues to confuse the political situation in the country. He has given numerous interviews to national and foreign mass media, often contradicting his own statements. Many in Bishkek are angry with Bakiyev, yet not everyone is optimistic about the country’s future. “I don’t see a clear leader or how the billions stolen by Bakiyev will be returned,” explained one Bishkek businessman.
Otunbayeva and her closest supporters are moving swiftly to implement change in Kyrgyzstan. Within one week, she has been able to overturn some of the most unpopular policies of the previous regime. Most key government positions are filled and the government is struggling to gain control at a local level –where most officials were appointed by Bakiyev on the basis of their loyalty to him.
However, not every major leader within her government is ready to recognize her as the de facto head of the new government. She is surrounded by hyper populists such as Almazbek Atambayev, the head of the Social Democratic Party, in which she is also a member. Since several members within, and outside, the provisional government perceive themselves as its main leaders, if they do not prevail, such individuals could soon join the opposition.