Jobs for the Boys in Kyrgyzstan

President accused of heading for dynastic rule after appointing son to top job.

Jobs for the Boys in Kyrgyzstan

President accused of heading for dynastic rule after appointing son to top job.

Friday, 20 November, 2009
A decision by President Kurmanbek Bakiev to appoint his son Maxim to head a new agency set up as a driving force for his recently-unveiled economic reforms has provoked a strong reaction in Kyrgyzstan.

On October 29, Maxim Bakiev was named as head of the new Central Agency for Development, Investment and Innovation. The body will be in charge of rebuilding the economy, attracting investment and supporting private enterprise.

President Bakiev unveiled the Presidential Institution when he announced wide-ranging reforms at an October 20 meeting with government officials. It is intended to be the engine of change, providing technocratic, bureaucracy-free leadership as Kyrgyzstan grapples with the effects of global economic crisis .

The development and investment agency is part of the Presidential Institution, a powerful new structure under the direct control of the head of state which will incorporate key decision-making functions, including some previously carried out by the prime minister and his government.

Some analysts see the appointment of Maxim Bakiev as evidence that the president is concentrating political power in the hands of his family in exactly the same way that his predecessor Askar Akaev did. They even suspect he may be grooming a successor.

Rashid Tagaev, a member of parliament from the president’s Ak Jol party, said the choice of Maxim Bakiev was “right and timely”.

Some analysts agree that there are merits in the appointment, saying that Bakiev junior could be the right man for the job, given his strong business background and his youth – at 32, he comes from a new post-Soviet generation familiar with market mechanisms.

“For many years, he was a successful businessman and he has contacts in this field,” said political analyst Marat Kazakbaev. “There is no doubt at all that this will help attract major foreign investments to Kyrgyzstan.”

Maxim Bakiev, the younger of the president’s two sons, obtained a law degree in Bishkek in 1999, and went into business. In the five years that his father has been president he has worked as a business consultant.

When Bakiev came to power in 2005 following mass protests which prompted President Akaev to flee the country, he pledged to put an end to the emerging dynastic system which was one of the main complaints against the regime at the time.

“One of the aims of the March revolution was to put an end to the dynastic rule of the first president,” recalled Almazbek Atambaev, once an ally of Bakiev’s in the ranks of the anti-Akaev opposition, and now an opponent who challenged him unsuccessfully in the July presidential election.

“But when the new man came to power, he immediately forgot all about that.”

Another former ally of Bakiev, Azimbek Beknazarov, now leader of the United People’ Movement, the main opposition bloc in Kyrgyzstan, says that early on, Bakiev promised him personally that he would not fall into the same trap as Akaev.

“But what President Bakiev has been doing since then is more or less the same,” he said. “Under Akaev, we had four presidents – his son, his daughter and his wife and him.”

Other Bakiev family members in senior posts include his eldest son Marat, who is deputy head of the national security service, control of which has passed from government to the president as part of the institutional restructuring.

The president’s brother Janysh is head of the Presidential Guard, while other brothers have also held high-profile jobs in government.

Political analyst Miroslav Niazov sees the addition of Maxim Bakiev as the most significant appointment of all in a campaign he says is all about “concentrating power in the hands of one family”.

“You will see that in due course, the president will want to make his son his successor. The Akaev family situation is repeating itself,” he said.

After his re-election in July, President Bakiev cannot run for a further term.

Assigning Maxim Bakiev a senior position is, in the eyes of some analysts, the first step towards creating a career in politics for him. By the time the next election falls due in 2014, the younger Bakiev will have passed the minimum age limit of 35, making him eligible to run for office, according to the constitution.

According to Bolot Januzakov, an opposition politician, the same constitution should have ruled him out altogether.

“The constitution states clearly that close relatives of the country’s president cannot occupy positions that are directly subordinated to him,” he said.

Yevgenia Kim reports for the internet publication
Frontline Updates
Support local journalists