Books on Kyrgyzstan
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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."
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.
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,
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
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
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,"
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
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.