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KYRGYZSTAN


 

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 1,737 1,632 1,500 145
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 330 290 280 178
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
198,500 

Population 
5,081,429

Principal 
ethnic groups
Kyrgyz 52.4%
Russians 21.5%
Uzbeks 12.9%

Capital
Bishkek 

Currency 
Kyrgyz Som 

President 
Askar Akayev



Update No: 297 - (29/09/05)

The judiciary is curbed
The revolution in Kyrgyzstan is at risk, as the country's new president and parliament find themselves on a collision course, as well as the president and the judiciary. 
Two recent developments - the dismissal of Azimbek Beknazarov as prosecutor general, and the assassination of MP Bayaman Erkinbayev - have intensified a long-simmering power struggle involving the executive and legislative branches. The incidents also underscore the prominent role of criminal elements in Kyrgyz politics. 
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev dismissed Beknazarov on September 19th. Beknazarov had been aggressively pursuing corruption cases, including several involving friends and relatives of former president Askar Akayev, who fled the country amid the Tulip Revolution in March. Officially, presidential aides attributed the dismissal to supposed malfeasance in two particular cases, one involving the murder of prominent businessman Abdalim Junusov and the other related to a shooting incident at a hotel in the southern city of Osh. 
Presidential allies also expressed dissatisfaction with Beknazarov's maverick style. "Beknazarov's actions have crossed some boundaries," said Miroslav Niyazov, secretary of the Kyrgyz National Security Council. "This man has formed a mistaken and inflated idea about the role and place of the prosecutor's office." 
Beknazarov characterized his ouster as politically motivated, linked directly to unease within the executive branch over the prosecutor's diligent efforts to uncover instances of official corruption. At a September 20th news conference, he alleged that corruption within the top ranks of government was rampant under Bakiyev. 
A statement issued by a coalition of non-governmental organizations, including Kyrgyz Citizens against Corruption, condemned Bakiyev's action, saying the executive branch was intent on stopping Beknazarov before he turned his attention on the actions of the incumbent administration. "Bakiyev sacrificed Beknazarov to the interests of criminality," the statement said. "Incumbent authorities are not interested in the struggle against corruption. Organized criminal elements have begun to openly cooperate with officials."
Meanwhile, some political analysts also saw the firing as an attempt by Bakiyev to consolidate his hold over the executive branch. They noted that a political ally of the president, Busurmankul Tabaldiyev, was appointed acting prosecutor-general. 

Parliament resists the president
Two days after Beknazarov's firing, two masked gunmen killed Erkinbayev, a member of parliament and a wealthy entrepreneur, as he was returning to his Bishkek home. Political analysts differed on the possible motive for the killing. Some linked it to politics, as Erkinbayev was one of the catalysts for the March protests in southern Kyrgyzstan that ended up driving Akayev's administration from power, while others expressed the belief that the murder was rooted in the victim's murky business behaviour. 
Beknazarov's dismissal and Erkinbayev's assassination have galvanized parliamentary resistance to Bakiyev's administration. A parliamentary resolution adopted September 22nd asserted that "the criminal situation in the country has sharply deteriorated over the past months." 
The resolution also sought to dilute presidential powers. It specifically called on the president to consider a reshuffle of his team and urged that Prime Minister Feliks Kulov -- a one-time Bakiyev rival now widely considered seen as a tenuous ally - be given responsibility for carrying out an anti-corruption campaign. In addition, MPs sought to exert greater legislative oversight over the Interior Ministry, the National Security Service and the prosecutor's office, demanding that the three agencies keep parliament informed on the Erkinbayev murder investigation. 
Prior to passing the resolution, MPs assailed Bakiyev's administration for allowing corruption and criminal behaviour to rise to levels unseen during Akayev's administration. Some criticized the president personally for appointing friends and relatives to important governmental posts. One MP, Kabai Karabekov said the presidential administration "resembles a Mafioso structure." 
Bakiyev attributed current problems to corruption within law-enforcement agencies, emphasizing that the difficulties long predated his administration. "It is no secret to anyone that law-enforcement agencies and bandits are to a certain extent working together," Bakiyev said. "This situation didn't appear yesterday." 
The president also fired back at MPs, demanding that they provide "the names of specific relatives of mine who are currently occupying an official post." He went on to accuse MPs of criminal behaviour. "You are perfectly aware of what is happening [concerning corruption]," Bakiyev told MPs during the September 22nd parliament session. "Among you present here [in parliament] are businessmen who, unfortunately, are often in conflict with the law, and who are evading taxes." 
During a public appearance on September 26th, Bakiyev sought to redirect attention away from the growing conflict between the executive and legislative branches. He called on the government to occupy itself with "stimulating economic activity instead of politics." 
MPs seem disinclined to ease up on the administration, however. Many legislators now view Bakiyev's team as incapable or unwilling to curb the criminal influence in government, political analysts say. On September 23rd, parliament passed a law granting MPs the right to carry firearms for self-defence. Some MPs are concerned that, in the weeks ahead, Bakiyev may attempt to politically weaken Kulov and, potentially, even try oust him from the government. If the president adopts such a course, it would likely provoke a sharp response from parliament, political observers say. 

North-south divide grows
Another concern is that the political tension in Bishkek could deepen the divide separating residents of northern Kyrgyzstan from southerners. Many northerners associate the rise in crime and corruption with the March revolution, which was led mainly by politicians with southern political roots, including Bakiyev. 
In a broader sense, the political wrangling is prompting many Kyrgyz to lose faith in the revolution's potential to bring about a more responsive government. The great popular complaint against Akayev's regime was that it had grown out of touch with the day-to-day concerns of the population.
Now, the perception is growing among Kyrgyz citizens that members of the executive and legislative branches are intent mainly on accumulating personal wealth and gaining control over income-generating state assets, instead of working to improve socio-economic conditions in the country and to keep it together. 

Is the president losing interest in constitutional reform?
One major reason for the March 24th revolution was popular opposition to then-president Akayev's accumulation of power. After Akayev's ouster, provisional leaders convened a Constitutional Council charged with drafting amendments to redistribute authority among the branches of government. Now, five months after the council first met, it seems bogged down by divisive debate and a frequent lack of quorum. 
When he led the opposition, Bakiyev was a strong supporter of amending Kyrgyzstan's constitution in order to establish a solid system of checks and balances. Now that Bakiyev has been inaugurated as Kyrgyzstan's president, however, civil society activists and some politicians are growing concerned that he is losing his zest for placing firmer limits on executive authority. 
Bakiyev, who was inaugurated as president on August 14th, has advocated a substantial turnover in the council's membership, arguing that such change could reinvigorate work on constitutional reform. He also has assumed the chairmanship of the council - action that was endorsed by Parliament Speaker Omurbek Tekebayev. 
Civil society activists suspect that recent action concerning the council will result in the preservation of existing prerogatives. Placing the president in charge of the constitutional reform process establishes a clear conflict of interest, the Association of Centres for the Support of Civil Society, an NGO umbrella group, said in a statement. "We must avert a repetition of the mistakes of the past few years, moving away from the domination and concentration of power in one person's hands," the association's statement said. Bakiyev's chairmanship of the council could "lead to the adoption of decisions that are in the interests of the branches of power that are in charge of the reform process," the statement said. 
Tekebayev indicated that Bakiyev's landslide presidential election win altered the country's political environment, enhancing the president's influence. "Naturally, those who received a big vote of confidence from the people have the right to suggest something, to protect their ways and means of reaching something," Tekebayev was quoted as saying by Pyramid TV on August 22nd. "I think that the position of many Constitutional Council members will remain unchanged. Still, they are ready for compromise." 
Since his inauguration, constitutional reform has appeared to be a secondary concern for Bakiyev. The president has sought to score quick points with the population, emphasizing the need for economic and social changes, while insisting on "iron discipline" within the executive branch. During an expanded government meeting on August 15th, Bakiyev lamented that many Kyrgyz citizens had "fallen in the quagmire of poverty and [had become] stuck in bribery." He vowed "to get rid of" those officials who engaged in corrupt practices to extort money from citizens. 
Such rhetoric fosters concern among civil society advocates. The main fear is that without a revamped constitution, Bakiyev, in seeking to implement his populist agenda, could easily fall into an authoritarian trap, following in Akayev's footsteps. For many years after the 1991 Soviet collapse, Akayev was regarded as the most enlightened of Central Asia's leaders, and Kyrgyzstan was hailed as an "Island of Democracy." Akayev, along with other Central Asian leaders, embraced authoritarian methods starting in 1999, when Islamic militants launched guerrilla operations in the region. 
Some NGO activists, including Edil Baisalov, who heads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, say they have detected signs that Bakiyev's administration is heading in a worrisome direction. Several criticize, for example, what they perceived to be excessive state expenditures, estimated at about US$500,000, on festivities connected with Bakiyev's inauguration. And in an August 9th interview with a Kyrgyz weekly "Erkin Too," Baisalov noted that many Kyrgyz media outlets were broadcasting and publishing an increasing number of articles offering fawning praise for the president. "We must not praise them [Bakiev's administration], and if we see shortcomings [in their work], we should tell them in the face" said Baisalov. 
The Constitutional Council comprises 114 members, who are drawn from the ranks of political parties and non-governmental organizations. Ten of the members, including Bakiyev, are associated with the government. The council has met several times, but consensus has remained elusive on where the new balancing point among government branches should be. Members have argued over whether to expand the number of MPs, whether or not to lift immunity for MPs and some government officials and how to make the process of judicial appointments more transparent. The council has also wrestled with big-picture issues, specifically whether Kyrgyzstan should be a parliamentary or presidential republic. It remains unclear when the council will complete its work. Marat Sultanov, an MP and a Constitutional Council member indicated at a June press conference that the process of amending the Basic Law could take years. "We should not adopt a new Constitution in haste, but we should also not delay [the adoption] until 2010," Sultanov said. "We have to fully realize that by October 2009, when the next presidential election will be held, we have to have a new constitution. ... Everybody should know the rules of the 'game.'" 
Political analysts in Bishkek suggest the some MPs are reluctant to push for constitutional changes, believing that the adoption of amendments would necessitate early legislative elections. The legitimacy of the sitting parliament has been a subject of debate since the March revolution. Allegations of vote-rigging during the parliamentary election, the first round of which was held in February, triggered the protests that ended up toppling Akayev. 
In addition, public interest in constitutional amendments appears to be waning. After months of upheaval, most Kyrgyz are tired of the constant political manoeuvring, and are now primarily interested in addressing personal economic concerns. Eldor Khalmatov, an independent election observer in Osh, told EurasiaNet that "the low voter turnout during the July presidential election demonstrated that people are tired of politics." 

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ENERGY

Kyrgyzstan to involve UES in national power grid 


Kyrgyzstan is set to involve a Russian company in managing its national power grid, a spokesman for the Kyrgyz president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, said recently, Interfax News Agency reported. 
Bakiyev announced this decision at a meeting with representatives of executive bodies and said that the Kyrgyz power system was in need of reforms. "We have a company which is ready to put the national power grid in order," he said adding that the company's wishes should be met, but without raising tariffs. However, Bakiyev's spokesman refused to name the Russian company that would manage the Kyrgyz power grid, calling it "a commercial secret."
Bakiyev said that the power sector was facing three main problems, which are energy theft by people and power engineers, netting, and barter which cause price rises and a lack of investment in the sector. He said that the national parliament would discuss the issue during the fall session. RAO UES, the Russian electricity monopoly, said it had received no proposals from the Kyrgyz government, adding that it was interested in Kyrgyz power assets. "We are hoping that we will be able to work with the Kyrgyz government, because in Russia RAO UES has experience in establishing order in the sector, and resolving similar problems to those which the Kyrgyz power grid is facing," Margarita Nagoga, a RAO UES spokesperson, said.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Kyrgyz president in Moscow 

Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was on a working visit to Russia on September 4th-5th to discuss the expansion of bilateral economic cooperation, the Kyrgyz presidential press service told Interfax News Agency.
Bakiyev held negotiations with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov, State Duma Chairman, Boris Gryzlov, and Moscow Mayor, Yury Luzhkov. 
According to the press service, the main subject of negotiations was the expansion of economic cooperation between the two countries. After talks with Bakiyev, Putin said that political stabilisation in Kyrgyzstan will promote economic development and investments, including Russian ones. "We are pleased that you are paying your first working visit to Moscow. This shows the good level of Russian-Kyrgyz relations and good prospects," Putin told Bakiyev. 
For his part, Bakiyev said, "Russia has always been a strategic partner of Kyrgyzstan, and current relations with Russia are of special importance." Putin expressed hope that Russian businesses in Kyrgyzstan will be offered favourable conditions for implementing long-term projects. "I expect that Russian businesses showing interest in operations in Kyrgyzstan will be offered comfortable and favourable conditions for the implementing of long-term projects." This provision was recorded in a joint statement at the talks. 
Putin said that Russia and Kyrgyzstan have agreed "to jointly and consistently promote investment cooperation and intensify interaction in power engineering, in the gas sector and other promising spheres. Russia and Kyrgyzstan will advance interaction in the framework of the CIS, the Organisation of the Collective Security Treaty, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and many other international organisations. 
Bakiyev stated that Kyrgyzstan is ready to develop cooperation in the electric power industry, in gold mining, in the processing of agricultural products and in tourism. "We are ready to discuss these issues with businessmen. Negotiations about the Kambarata-2 and Kambarata-1 projects and the construction of an aluminium plant have been held, and it is time to start working," Bakiyev said. 
A Russia-Kyrgyzstan joint statement was signed in Moscow during Bakiyev's visit. Russia and Kyrgyzstan also signed a number of agreements, including an intergovernmental document on the settlement of Kyrgyz debt from Russian loans granted on December 5th 2002. The finance ministers are the signatories to the agreement.
The Russian justice minister and the director of the Kyrgyz intellectual property agency signed an intergovernmental agreement on the mutual protection of intellectual property in the bilateral military-technical sphere.

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