Political Competition Intensifies in Kyrgyzstan

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 84

Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government today is torn between its efforts to gain international legitimacy and maintain its domestic popularity. It has convicted former president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, of mass murder. Lacking formal legitimacy, the provisional government’s decision to convict Bakiyev was largely an act targeted towards its domestic audience. There are numerous other challenges the new leadership is facing in the run up to the constitutional reform and parliamentary elections in June and October this year.

Overall, the provisional government has found nine people guilty of organizing the April 7 events that resulted in 85 deaths and over 1,000 wounded. They include Bakiyev, his brother Zhanysh, the former Prime Minister, Daniyar Usenov, and other former ministers. Bakiyev’s closest supporters are accused of causing the loss of over $45 million to the national economy (www.24.kg, April 28). Some of the convicted have been arrested, but Bakiyev and his family members, prosecuted for murder and corruption, are still on the wanted list.

Without waiting for an international investigation of the April 7 events and gaining legitimacy in the eyes of the local population, the provisional government continues to swiftly strengthen its own capacity to rule. Earlier promises made by members of the provisional government that Bakiyev and his closest supporters would be tried in international courts have not been supported.

An internet opinion poll has shown that the head of the provisional government, Roza Otunbayeva, is the most popular politician (www.freemarket.kg, April 28). She is followed by Omurbek Tekeyev, currently responsible for constitutional reform, and Defense Minister, Ismail Isakov. Against this background, a range of political forces are planning to enter Kyrgyzstan’s political scene. Several youth organizations, headed by young entrepreneurs, have recently formed a Liberal-Progressive party to participate in parliamentary elections. Numerous political aspirants see an opportunity to enter the political space within existing political parties or by forming new political blocks.

Furthermore, reports suggest that the family of former president, Askar Akayev, plan to return to Kyrgyz politics. Akayev’s daughter, Bermet, has stated that she is not excluding the possibility of returning to Kyrgyzstan (www.ca-news.org, April 28). She condemns the provisional government’s plan to reform the state into a parliamentary system, arguing that not one solid party has yet been established in the country.

Meanwhile, the provisional government is being urged by local entrepreneurs to restore a normal business environment. Functioning in emergency mode, the provisional government has been able to establish only feeble control over the police forces. Unable to oversee most business activity in the country, it was bound to temporarily ban the execution of a number of financial transactions in order to prevent fraud. To make matters worse, Kazakhstan continues to keep its border with Kyrgyzstan closed, causing the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars (www.24.kg, April 26).

There is also a growing concern that small arms might have spread across the population. It still remains unclear how the weapons were seized by rioters in Bishkek and who organized the shipment of stones to the central square on April 7. Members of the provisional government have insisted that the weapons were seized from the police before the riots spread to central Bishkek. However, before the April 7 change of regime several opposition leaders currently affiliated with the provisional government told Jamestown that opposition forces had already ensured they possessed sufficient amounts of weapons to respond to Bakiyev in case he resorted to using force against the demonstrators.

The Kyrgyz interior ministry has announced that it expects all weapons seized on April 7 to be returned by May 1. After that date, the law enforcement agencies will carry out special investigative activities. All those not complying with the ministry’s decisions will be prosecuted. According to Kyrgyz media reports, people who took part in the April 7 riots have returned dozens of weapons to the police. For example, a young man returned 32 Makarov handguns this week, showing that guns may be freely available within society in the aftermath of violence (www.akipress.kg, April 28). There are many more weapons likely to remain in the hands of the rioters.

The provisional government has its plate full trying to establish its own legitimacy at home and abroad. It has used tough measures to establish a sense of order. So far, these balancing acts are rather awkward, executed both within and outside normative procedures. The provisional government has five months before it will be able to claim legitimacy after the elections. Meanwhile, more influential powers might override the government’s domestic influence.