Kyrgyzstan’s new government has already descended into dirty intrigues (see EDM, January 11). The ruling regime under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is now reportedly using the Interior Ministry to ensure quiet compliance of all public figures. The pro-regime bloc Ak Zhol’s majority in the parliament, and the president’s family and business connections in the security agencies, allow him to control all cadre decisions in the government and parliament.
In one recent scandal, a high-ranking government official received a gift package containing a human finger and an ear (taken from a dead homeless person) as a warning that his cadre politics contradicted those of Bakiyev’s close family members represented in the government. Following this incident, Interior Minister Bolotbek Nogoibayev was sacked on January 14 and replaced by Moldomusa Kongontiyev, whose older brother Kamabarly is the president’s special representative in the parliament. Both Kongontiyev brothers were removed in November 2006 for allegations of corruption after a week-long protest by the opposition. Bakiyev’s elder relatives in the security structures allegedly participated in the intrigue. As one Kyrgyz democracy activist told Jamestown, Bakiyev will control the parliament through Kongantiyev senior, while the current speaker of parliament, Adakhan Madumarov, is merely a figurehead.
Kyrgyz security structures are embroiled in an alleged smuggling incident. On December 31, 2007, Uzbek border guards detected train cargo containing radioactive cesium-137 traveling from Kyrgyzstan to Iran. The cargo was uploaded in Kyrgyzstan and crossed three state borders – the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border twice and the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border once – before being caught in Uzbekistan. Kyrgyz security officials have remained largely silent about the incident, as the train compartment with the deadly cargo belongs to a government agency. As one Kyrgyz official told Jamestown, deals such as this are brokered at top political levels, and security agencies at times are unaware of them.
Bakiyev’s regime shows little tolerance to any open expression of public protest. On January 16, young democracy activist Maxim Kuleshov was arrested and beaten up by police. Kuleshov was accused of staging unsanctioned meetings in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. Kuleshov is an energetic supporter of democratic changes, but he lacks sufficient resources to mobilize crowds of more than a dozen people. He was active during Bakiyev’s constitutional amendment process last September, both during and after parliamentary elections on December 16, 2007.
Kuleshov has experienced minor problems with law-enforcement personnel before, but he was always able to escape major troubles. In his public newsletter prior to the protest, Kuleshov had announced that the January 16 event was aimed at uniting Bishkek youth who hunger for change. As he became more active in recent days, the police punished him more severely. Kuleshov’s actions do not pose a direct threat to Bakiyev’s government, but the president’s ruthless suppression of minor demonstrations such as this reveals the regime’s paranoia that larger crowds will mobilize against it.
To neutralize more forceful political voices in the opposition who lost in the December 16 elections, Bakiyev has adopted a somewhat careful strategy. A number of opposition leaders were given positions in regional governments or higher diplomatic ranks. For example, Omurbek Suvanaliyev, former interior minister and an active supporter of opposition leader Felix Kulov, was made governor of Naryn Oblast. Several reshuffles are expected to follow in the Foreign Service branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The current government is comprised of the president’s most loyal allies, as all potential heretics are removed. On January 17, the parliament sacked the chair of the Supreme Court, Kurmanbek Osmonov, whose term was formally set to expire in 2014. Instead of Osmonov, the president recommended the elder Kongantiyev, who will likely be supported by the parliament in the coming days.
Bakiyev has recently announced his plan to privatize the remaining portion of government assets. This announcement raised new concerns about greater corruption. Several major private banks recently were forcefully moved under the control of the president’s close allies.
The ongoing power struggle in Bakiyev’s government is evident to the ordinary Kyrgyz observer. It is taking place amid public fatigue due to the continuous mass demonstrations and political showdowns among the president, his small circle of allies, and the opposition. Bakiyev’s recent cadre decisions are explained by his – and his family’s – economic interests. The current Kyrgyz state has a mafia-like structure with business actors playing dirty politics.
(24.kg, Akipress.kg, Delo nomer, January 2-17)