Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Big Party for Kyrgyz Government

Four small parties team up to form loyalist bloc, offering a possible vehicle for presidential succession.
By Leila Saralaeva

Opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan have suggested that the formation of a new pro-government bloc may be intended as a vehicle for a successor to President Askar Akaev.

Four parties - Jany Zaman, Manas El, Jany Kyimyl and the Cooperative Workers' Party - announced the formation of Alga (Forward) Kyrgyzstan, at a meeting on September 7.

The head of the bloc's ruling council Bolot Begaliev told IWPR that setting up the new political force was not about short-term manoeuvring. "Our aims go far beyond a power struggle," he said. "Although participation in the elections is certainly part of our strategic plan, our global objective is to make Kyrgyzstan a strong state."

"We call ourselves a 'pro-position' party - the word 'opposition' has been hijacked by careerist demagogues. But there's no reason to call us a pro-government party, since we haven't brought anyone to power yet."

Some opposition figures dismiss Alga Kyrgyzstan as an empty shell which will carry no real political weight. "When political parties merge, it does not mean a thing," argued parliamentary deputy Adakhan Madumarov. "None of these parties has much influence by itself, so how is the sum total going to make a difference in Kyrgyz politics, economics, or presidential elections?"

Madumarov said none of the parties in the bloc is strong enough to run for parliament, nor do any of them have a charismatic leader who might run for president. "All this ballyhoo is nothing but an attempt to fill a political void with loud proclamations of how much they support the president's policy and reforms," he said.

Deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, who heads the political movement For the Resignation of Akaev and Reforms for the People, said the new coalition force was "cobbled together". "The architects of this new bloc travelled around the country over the summer, hoping to shore up some popular support. But they only ended up securing the loyalty of local government bureaucrats," he said.

Beknazarov thinks nevertheless that it might be a good thing if future elections are fought between one major pro-government grouping and a unified opposition, because "it would be conducive to a more civilised struggle for power". But Alga Kyrgyzstan cannot expect an easy run. "They can exert influence on the central electoral board," he said. "But a lot depends on us, the opposition, and the international human rights institutions."

Others believe the new bloc was formed as a tactical move to consolidate smaller parties into a more formidable pro-government force ahead of a crucial presidential election scheduled for 2005.

Omurbek Tekebaev, head of the opposition Ata Meken party, thinks the bloc will benefit from government support - the so-called "administrative resources" that range from financial backing to logistical and political support by local government. Another parliamentary deputy, Marat Sultanov, agrees, "A party backed by the government can always hope to gain an extra 15 to 20 per cent of the vote."

President Akaev ends his term in office in 2005. He has said he will not seek re-election, and - although it is far from certain what he will actually do - observers are already sizing up the possible candidates whom Akaev might choose to succeed him. Some see the new pro-government coalition as a vehicle for promoting such a figure.

"I don't know who that person is going to be yet," said Edil Baisalov, leader of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. "I doubt whether President Akaev knows himself who will be. But now that the party has been formed, we may soon find out."

A parliamentary deputy, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed with Baisalov, and named Misir Ashirkulov and Temirbek Akhmataliev as two possible contenders for the presidential succession. Ashirkulov, 57, is head of the powerful security council and also holds the post of acting head of the president's office. He is considered a friend of the president's family. Akhmataliev, 48, is Ashirkulov's deputy and has already held a number of influential posts, including that of interior minister.

The two men came top of the list in a recent poll by the Kyrgyz newspaper Litsa, which asked readers who they thought would succeed Akaev. "The highest number of votes were received by Misir Ashirkulov, followed by Temirbek Akhmataliev and deputy prime minister Joomart Otorbaev," Litsa chief editor Bermet Bukasheva told IWPR. "I'd have gone for those three names myself."

Leila Saralaeva is an independent journalist in Bishkek.