June 17 marked the peak of Kyrgyzstan’s counter-revolutionary movement, which is apparently organized by Urmat Baryktabasov, a politician allied with ex-president Askar Akayev. The three months since Akayev’s ouster in the March 24 Tulip Revolution have been very intense for Kyrgyzstan. There were two contract murders, several riots against and in favor of parliament members, hunger strikes by civic workers, and numerous political figures have faced accusations or lawsuits on corruption charges. The former president, his son, daughter, and son-in-law, Adil Toigonbayev, are suspected of destabilizing the situation in the country by intentionally financing protestors. New riots are expected this week, aimed at disrupting the July 10 presidential election. For the first time since 1991, the Kyrgyz people will vote for a new president on Sunday.
According to Kyrgyz experts, the same core group of people frequently participates in multiple riots against the new government. They are paid up to $20 to gather in central squares in Bishkek and Osh. Leila Saralayeva, a Bishkek reporter, labeled them “rent-a-mob” (IWPR, June 28). According to her, only unpopular politicians must resort to paid demonstrators. At the same time, they are usually uneducated and economically impoverished people, who are generally not politically active, but are ready to execute any task for a monetary reward. Almost half of the paid picketers are women.
In his recent interview with the Associated Press (June 30) Akayev openly accused the United States of financing the Kyrgyz opposition and thus contributing to his ouster. The United States, according to him, was unhappy with his friendly politics towards Russia (Akipress, July 1). Akayev blamed international organizations, including Freedom House, for bringing democratic changes to the Central Asian region but failing to consider the local mentality and traditions. He thinks that the new Kyrgyz government will inspire Islamic fundamentalist movements in the region to step up their activities.
But Akayev’s accusations prove anything but wrong. Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, as well as other government leaders, have stated many times that the new government is willing to maintain established relations with Russia, the United States, and China. In response to Akayev’s commentary on the U.S. presence in Kyrgyzstan, U.S. Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack told journalists that he is not aware of any facts that substantiate the charges the ex-president has made against the United States (Akipress, July 1).
It seems that Akayev’s family is trying to improve their damaged reputation in Kyrgyzstan by denying any accusations against them. As Gazeta.kg reports (July 1), Akayev sent an unofficial letter to the government demanding public apologies for accusing him of corruption and of organizing counter-revolutionary movements. If his claims are not acted upon, he is threatening to disclose important information affecting all members of the new government, information that could considerably reconfigure the political situation in the country. This ultimatum is not the first time Akayev has tried to intimidate the new government.
After losing in the Kyrgyz courts, Bermet Akayeva, the ex-president’s daughter, will appeal to an international court to regain her parliamentary seat. Aidar Akayev, the ex-president’s son and also a member of parliament, recently appeared publicly to thank other parliamentarians for canceling the investigations of him for corruption, although a special state commission collected considerable evidence of his numerous violations in the business sphere. Aidar told Akipress (June 30) that he thinks all charges against him were fabricated and are politically motivated: “This is an absolute provocation: never had I threatened anybody, nothing did I seize. I believe my conscience is clean.” The Kyrgyz parliament, comprised mostly of the country’s richest businessmen, evidently still supports Askar Akayev.
There are mixed expectations about the upcoming elections. Most parliamentarians think the vote will inevitably be rigged. They argue that despite all efforts to secure honest voting by inviting international observers and supplying transparent ballot boxes, Bakiyev’s team has already subtly used administrative resources in his campaign. “There will certainly be falsification, because there is a long line of office-seekers in front of the White House,” says Bakyr Kerimbekov, a former parliamentarian.
Yet, there are optimistic predictions as well: “I want to highlight once again that, compared to the parliamentary elections this year, the presidential elections will be clean,” says sociologist Ainura Sagynbayeva (Gazeta.kg, Open.kg, July 3).
Still others think that the new government is gaining more credibility and capacity every day. “Relatively fair elections will take place because the Kyrgyz people have been given a chance to show the entire world that Kyrgyzstan can develop in a democratic way,” says another parliamentarian.
Although Bakiyev’s rating has shrunk since March 24, his electoral alliance with Acting Prime Minister Felix Kulov should give him a majority of the votes. Elections will likely end after the first round, with Bakiyev supported by about 55% of the population. If the percentage is higher, many observers will question the overall validity of the elections. In the 2000 election Akayev’s political allies “overplayed” their hand giving him the surprisingly high support of 74% of the votes, thanks to numerous falsifications.