Kyrgyzstan’s Ruling Coalition Doomed to Rapid Collapse
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 48
The ruling coalition will collapse before Kyrgyzstan’s President, Roza Otunbayeva, returns from her two-day trip to Washington, a member of the opposition Ata-Meken party told Jamestown recently. The current coalition consisting of Ata-Jurt, the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), and Respublika parties has remained intact during Otunbayeva’s absence. On March 10, Parliamentary Speaker, Akhmatbek Keldibekov, condemned any attempts to break up the coalition (www.expertkg.info, March 10).
The threat of the coalition’s collapse is real. Representatives of the Ata-Meken, Ar-Namys, and Respublika parties told Jamestown that its end is near. The Ata-Meken party has been the loudest in predicting the coalition’s collapse. The Ata-Jurt party has also showed signs of defection. The party’s leaders admitted that the coalition is barely holding together (www.kginfo.org, March 9).
All changes in the parliament are signs of an informal beginning of the presidential campaign. Otunbayeva will step down from power by the end of this year and presidential elections will be held. “Those talking about the coalition’s inevitable collapse are seen to be bargaining for access to state institutions. Ata-Meken is seen as the main political force calling for the coalition to break up. It is very unfortunate that the very party that was the chief architect of parliamentary democracy is discrediting it for the people of Kyrgyzstan that seek political stability and rapid economic growth after very volatile 2010,” a government spokesman told Jamestown.
According to an insider in Ar-Namys, the new coalition is likely to comprise of triple “A’s” – Ar-Namys, Ata-Jurt, and Ata-Meken. In this configuration the Ar-Namys party leader and former KGB officer, Felix Kulov, is likely to become Prime Minister, replacing SDPK’s Almaz Atambayev. The main goal, Jamestown’s source argues, is to sideline Atambayev who has strong presidential ambitions. “Atambayev is still likely to emerge as a winner, but his chances will increase substantially if he remains head of government,” the source explained (March 9).
Should a new coalition emerge Ata-Jurt will still retain strong positions both in the parliament and government. However, the party is ready to support Felix Kulov who has informally agreed not to run for the presidency. Ata-Jurt’s leader, Kamchybek Tashiyev, is the most likely presidential contender.
Respublika leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Omurbek Babanov, is convinced that Ata-Meken, finding itself in the fringes of politics, is bound to undermine the coalition to join the ruling coalition. After the parliament adopted state budget for 2011, Ata-Meken found itself marginalized from most government spending projects, and thus considerably disempowered.
“It will be much easier for those calling for Kyrgyzstan to return to presidential democracy to claim that parliamentary democracy is not stable and unsuitable for us,” a government spokesman said.
Some Kyrgyz experts believe that Babanov would support Atambayev in the presidential elections in order to secure the post of prime minister. At this point the most likely presidential contenders are Atambayev and Tashiyev. Both candidates will constitute a strong challenge to one another – Atambayev securing votes mostly in the north, while Tashiyev in the south. However, anything can happen in the months ahead. In the worst case scenario, the parliament will be dissolved and another parliamentary election will be held should another coalition collapse. According to Kyrgyzstan’s constitution the parliament has only three attempts to form a ruling coalition. The current coalition was formed after the second attempt last December.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Otunbayeva was praised for her ability to prevent the country from collapse and conducting free and fair elections. During her visit Otunbayeva met with US President Barak Obama. President Obama made an impromptu appearance during Otunbayeva’s meeting with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (www.akipress.kg, March 8). This was the second time Obama and Otunbayeva have met in less than six months.
President Obama reiterated his support for Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to consolidate its democracy. He also thanked Otunbayeva for hosting the US Transit Center in Manas and pledged US commitment to “maximize the benefits” from the center for the Kyrgyz people. While the Kyrgyz president indeed deserves much respect for her achievements, she stands out as the only politician who puts the country’s interests ahead of own ambitions. During her speeches, Otunbayeva has outlined the challenges facing Kyrgyzstan today. Collapse of the ruling coalition, however, was not part of her list.