Recent showdowns between Kyrgyz Parliament Speaker Adakhan Madumarov and members of Ak Zhol, a pro-regime political party, reveal the intensifying rivalry between two camps among Kyrgyzstan’s political circles. The first camp is informally led by Madumarov, Bishkek Mayor and influential businessman Daniyar Usenov and State Advisor to the President Usen Sydykov, while the second camp is clustered around Medet Sadyrkulov, the head of the presidential administration. Both camps are believed to be splitting the support of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s family members, his brother Zhanysh Bakiyev and son Maskim (www.parus.kg, May 23).
The confrontation between the two groups follows along the lines of their business interests and political ambitions. Zhanysh is known to be in control of the country’s cadre politics and security structures, while Maksim is allegedly involved in Kyrgyzstan’s largest businesses. Both relatives are infamous for their ruthless confrontation over economic resources. Madumarov’s position in the parliament has allowed him to facilitate the adoption of desired legislature such as privatization of the energy sector, but his recent suggestion to redecorate the parliament hall at the expense of the government provoked resistance among his rivals in parliament, which has led to his possible replacement. The President has supported the idea of removing Madumarov, despite the latter’s hope for support.
The scandal has split the Ak Zhol party into rival groups as well, weakening its position in parliament. Madumarov is detested by several MPs who are using the rather feeble excuse of the redecorating to try to oust him from the speaker’s position. Should Madumarov be removed in the vote on May 29, a new speaker will likely be chosen by the president who will need to accommodate the interests of both groups. Madumarov has been Bakiyev’s loyal supporter and a strong shield against opposition forces. He was also backed by Kambaraly Kongantiyev, the president’s special representative in parliament. Four Ak Zhol MPs have already expressed interest in running for speaker of parliament.
As Omurbek Tekebayev, head of the Ata Meken opposition party and speaker of the previous parliament, commented, “This conflict is a typical manifestation of latent, cruel and uncompromising confrontation between the president’s groupings” (www.akipress.kg, May 23). Tekebayev further argued that both camps were equally powerful with each being able to influence the president to a similar degree. At times Bakiyev was bound to follow the demands of one camp in the morning, while the other camp prevailed by the end of the day. Both camps also have adopted different strategies, according to Tekebayev. While Sadyrkulov favors more sophisticated political methods, his rival Sydykov uses old-fashioned techniques of acting through networks.
The competition between the two camps has significantly intensified since parliament approved privatization of the energy sector last month. The conflicting groups’ interests diverge with regard to prospective investors. Kyrgyz experts believe that Usenov is interested in allowing Kazakh investors to privatize the country’s major hydropower sites. He has been allegedly the key figure in lobbying for Kazakhstan’s acquisition of four resorts at Issyk-Kul Lake and brokering several other large-scale deals with Kazakh investors. Maksim, however, has different plans for the energy sector, probably involving Russian investors. Although the currently competing groups are comprised of the country’s richest individuals, control over energy resources in Kyrgyzstan will pave the way for political leverage in the coming years. Political elites have, in effect, already commenced their campaigns two years before the next presidential elections in 2010.
Meanwhile, on May 26, Kyrgyz Minister of Defense Ismail Isakov was replaced by Bakytbek Kalyev, former head of the State Guard. Although Isakov has been a popular minister, Kalyev is more loyal to Bakiyev since he headed the structure directly responsible for president’s security. Isakov’s new position is Head of the Security Council. Current Minister of the Interior Moldomusa Kongantiyev, appointed in January, is also known to be a loyal figure in the president’s team. Cementing support of security structures allows the president to assure compliance of opposition groups as well as conflicting fractions within Ak Zhol.
If Bakiyev is not able to stifle the rivalry between Usenov and Sadyrkulov, he might face a further weakening of his own hold on power. The choice of a new speaker of parliament indicates which of the powerful camps is prevailing over the president. No matter who replaces Madumarov, the recent scandals have made it clear that the present challenges to Bakiyev’s power are not stemming so much from the opposition as from his closest supporters and greedy family members.