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Kyrgyz Leader Tries to Rally Support

Defiance comes as interim government announces plans for presidential election after bloody revolt.
By Ainagul Abdrakhmanova, Timur Toktonaliev
  • Kyrgyz government building in Bishkek. Photo by Nurlan Abdaliev, IWPR.
    Kyrgyz government building in Bishkek. Photo by Nurlan Abdaliev, IWPR.

Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiev refused to step down and tried to rally supporters in the southern city of Jalalabad a day after fleeing the capital Bishkek amid bloody unrest.

In the capital, the opposition leader, former foreign minister Roza Otunbaeva, said the interim government was fully in control and had begun distributing portfolios.

Clashes in Bishkek and other towns killed 75 people on April 7 as unrest over standards of living boiled over and troops opened fire on the crowds. Around 400 people were injured, according to the Kyrgyz health ministry.

Analysts said that until Bakiev’s status is resolved, the situation will remain unstable.

In his first reaction to the riots, Bakiev in a statement on April 8 accused leaders of the opposition of overthrowing the government and said he is not resigning.

“I am stating that as a president I have not resigned and am not resigning,” Bakiev said.

In Jalalabad, his entourage held a meeting on Bakiev’s behalf to try to rally support. A resident of the city who took part, Ilyas Zakirov, told IWPR there was no widespread support for the president’s appeals.

Zakirov said Bakiev himself did not appear in front of the crowd of around 5,000 people who gathered in the city’s central square around midday. The ousted governor of Jalalabad and a close associate of Bakiev, Koshbai Masirov, announced at the meeting that that a committee to defend Bakiev had been set up.

Bakiev’s representatives told the meeting he promised to improve the situation in the country and to dismiss all his relatives who had been given important government posts.

His eldest son occupies a high-ranking post in the national security service. His second son was last year appointed head of the government agency for economic development and innovation. A brother is the country’s ambassador in Germany.

Some representatives of the country’s large Uzbek minority let it be known that they do not intend to offer support to Bakiev.

Political analyst Mars Sariev said the Jalalabad region was the only place where Bakiev could hope to mobilise support to use as a card in dealing with the new interim government.

“It is important for him now to gather a lot of support and to turn it into a political factor that would force the interim ‘Government of People’s Trust’ to engage in negotiations with him,” Sariev said.

Asked about the chances of Bakiev making a comeback, Sariev said that it would depend on how successful the interim government will be, “It will depend on mistakes the interim government might make.”

He said with public meetings taking place across the country, the new government could find it difficult to react swiftly to people’s demands.

IWPR Central Asia commentator John MacLeod said there were signs that the coup would give the new leaders a second chance to stage a Tulip Revolution – a reference to the overthrow of the previous president Askar Akaev in 2005. “This is the good guys having another go,” he said.

As long as Bakiev was prevented from staging a successful counter-coup, the indications were that there could be a smooth transition after this week’s bloodbath. “The system has rolled over and accepted the new government,” MacLeod said.

“If they can get hold of this thing and external forces will allow them to do it – and I think they will – and Bakiev goes away, they have another chance of getting it right.”

The previous divide between north and south in Kyrgyzstan, with Bakiev relying on a power base in the south, was less relevant now because many southern politicians had joined the movement to oust him, MacLeod said.

“Almost everyone in the Tulip Revolution from north and south is incredibly hostile to him and wants to see the back of him,” he added

“This was unanticipated but in the circumstances, it is the best option going.”

Sariev said Bakiev might try to reach a deal on his immunity and safety for his family and then resign on television.

“If this is not guaranteed then the situation in the south, and possibly in Bishkek, could worsen further as he still has supporters and what’s more they are armed and could potentially provoke disturbances,” Sariev said.

In Bishkek, members of the interim government said at a news conference they were working on reversing Bakiev’s policies.

Otunbaeva said of the April 7 bloody uprising, “Democracy in Kyrgyzstan is rapidly moving forward in response to the steps backwards that had been taking place.”

The interim government would be in place for the next six months until a presidential election is held, she said.

It will work on changing the constitution, the election law and law on public meetings, all of which had been amended under Bakiev’s leadership to strengthen his power.

Otunbaeva pledged to reverse the decision to increase prices of heating and electricity made at the beginning of the year, a move that hit ordinary people hard and was one of the main reasons for widespread discontent with the government.

She also promised the renationalisation of the privatised state energy company Severelektro and telecoms company Kyrgyztelecom.

Jailed former defence minister Ismail Isakov, who was released on April 7, told journalists patrols will be set up to prevent looting. He said that the army and border protection force have sided with the new government.

Otunbaeva also presented her interim cabinet. The head of the opposition Social Democratic Party, Almazbek Atambaev, was put in charge of the economy; the leader of the Ak Shumkar party, Temir Sariev, was made responsible for the finance ministry. Ata Meken party leader Omurbek Tekebaev will drive constitutional reforms and Azimbek Beknazarov, a prominent member of the People’s Movement, was put in charge of the legal system.

Ainagul Abdurahmanova and Timur Toktonaliev are IWPR-trained reporters in Kyrgyzstan.
Dina Tokbaeva is IWPR Kyrgyzstan editor.

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