On September 26 former Chair of the Central Elections Commission (CEC) Klara Kabilova released a video statement describing psychological and physical intimidation by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s son Maksim in the run-up to local elections scheduled for October 5. According to Kabilova, Maksim repeatedly threatened her and her family members. The statement by the former CEC chair might have long-term implications in Kyrgyzstan’s political life. Realizing this, Kabilova is currently in exile with her family; her daughter, however, has been subjected to strong pressure from the Kyrgyz embassy in Moscow (www.24.kg, September 29).
While Kabilova’s depiction of the intimidation by Maksim, known for his informal control of major political and economic sectors, surprised almost no one in Kyrgyzstan, political opposition, NGO leaders, and the government reacted strongly to her statement. The opposition immediately held a press conference with Omurbek Tekebayev, Bakyt Beshimov, and several other leaders in support of Kabilova. One former opposition leader told Jamestown that Kabilova was expected to reveal more facts about the pressure she had been experiencing from the Bakiyev regime, once her family had reached a safe place outside of Kyrgyzstan.
If she indeed shares more facts about the falsification of parliamentary elections in December 2007, opposition forces might press the government to declare this election void. The December 2007 vote was controversial, allowing mostly the pro-regime party Ak Zhol to win seats in the parliament. Al Zhol was formed only two months prior to the elections, and the CEC supported its nominees across the country.cSeveral political parties that were unsuccessful in the elections have already demanded the nullification of the election’s results.
The NGO community also reacted strongly to Kabilova’s statement, some warning her of the dangers she is facing in the future from Bakiyev’s regime, others criticizing her for submitting to Bakiyev previously. Edil Baisalov, who had to escape Kyrgyzstan days before the December 2007 parliamentary elections because of persecution by the government, accused Kabilova of previously having helped Bakiyev establish his regime. Indeed, Kabilova has long been associated with Bakiyev’s regime, previously heading the Strategic Studies Institute under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic. Because of its blatant cooperation with the regime, the CEC was largely blamed for the results of the controversial constitutional referendum and 2007 parliamentary elections. The NGO coalition For Democracy and Civil Society slammed Kabilova for large-scale falsification in December 2007 and is now calling on her to admit her wrongdoing (www.akipress.kg, September 26).
With the approach of local elections, Kabilova apparently felt increasing pressure from Maksim. In her public statement she said “if Maksim Bakiyev wanted to scare me, he has achieved his goal; if he wanted to humiliate me, he has accomplished that.” Her statement once again showed the importance of local government elections in Kyrgyzstan.cSince Kyrgyz parliament is comprised of only one chamber, a member of the local government serves as the direct link between the government and the local population.cIn cases of potential protests, Bakiyev is likely to communicate immediately with the local governments.cThe competition for positions in local elections is fierce, with more than 15,000 candidates running for 491 seats (see EDM, September 24).c
Other members of the CEC rushed to declare that the elections on October 5 would be clean and that they had not experienced any pressure from the government. Such assurances possibly come, however, from pressure exerted by the government following Kabilova’s statement.
Bakiyev sacked Kabilova hours after the release of her statement and encouraged the General Prosecutor to launch an official investigation. Meanwhile, Maksim has denied all accusations, welcoming an official investigation. The opposition and NGO community widely expect the General Prosecutor’s investigation to be biased. Since the December 2007 elections, Bakiyev has been able to promote his family members and cronies into key positions in the security structures and judicial branch.
Although Kabilova’s statement is unlikely to affect the forthcoming local government elections, it will further arm the Kyrgyz opposition against Bakiyev. It is unlikely that the opposition will achieve the nullification of the December 2007 parliamentary election owing to Bakiyev’s infiltration of virtually all state structures, but Kabilova has contributed to the public’s frustration over the coming energy crisis in Kyrgyzstan and its dissatisfaction with Bakiyev’s corrupt regime.cThese frustrations will indeed reach the boiling point.