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New Kyrgyz Political Force

An unlikely political alliance in Kyrgyzstan is threatening an upset in forthcoming presidential elections
By Sultan Jumagulov

A union between the right-wing Ar-Namys (Dignity) and the Socialist Ata-Meken (Fatherland) parties a month before a presidential poll is winning over the electorate.


In political circles, the alliance is accepted as a force entirely capable of influencing the results of the coming elections, providing a real challenge to head of state Askar Akaev.


Its leaders, Felix Kulov and Socialist Omurbek Tekebaev, are confident of victory, as long as the elections on October 29 are held openly and honestly. If Tekebaev wins the presidency, Kulov will become prime minister.


Kulov, a former vice president and national security minister who used to be a close Akaev ally, resigned early last year, publicly criticizing the president's policies.


He currently faces charges of abusing his ministerial powers. And has also been excluded from the list of presidential candidates after refusing to sit an exam to establish his command of the state language, Kyrgyz.


From the corridors of power to the kitchens of humble citizens, the new political union is the main topic of conversation. People ask how two such different people can find a common language, particularly in view of their very different social backgrounds. Kulov is a former general while Tekebaev, from the first days of the Ata-Meken party, has always been a Socialist.


Both politicians are calling for the creation in Kyrgyzstan of a parliamentary democracy. Kulov says the authorities have created the basis for a totalitarian regime. Tekebaev believes public confidence can only be won back by strengthening the role of the state, along with a full frontal assault on corruption.


The authorities however have moved fast to weaken their opponents. Kulov's lawyers have lost their final appeal even though his case has been thrown out by a Bishkek military court.


In the government media, an aggressive campaign against the new alliance has begun. The administration has sought to play down the significance of the partnership. "I highly value the potential of Tekebaev, however I don't think that at present he is ready to compete on equal terms with the current president," said Akaev's press secretary, Osmonakun Ibraimov.


"I'm astonished when Kulov tries to pass the blame for the present crisis onto the authorities. Has he forgotten where he was for a whole eight years - in those same power structures? I think that Kulov, politically, has entirely bankrupted himself, and so, in desperation, he's clinging to whoever he can."


But fellow parliamentarians are less sanguine. "It seems that this union will have a lot of supporters. Even some influential politicians in government circles are secretly supporting it," said Adakhan Madumarov, member of the Political Council of the People's Party.


"They say they're going to do everything to ensure that laws which have been ignored for so long will at long last come into force," said Nikolai Bailo, Deputy Chairman of the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan. "The union of parties with totally different positions is a surprise, of course. Nevertheless, it has revived political life in country."


Politician and commentator Ishenbai Kadyrbekov says the alliance could have a significant influence, "As they say themselves, if Akaev has the state bureaucrats on his side, they've got the electorate on their side. In addition, by joining forces, the northerner Kulov and the southerner Tekebaev have been very far-sighted. It's a clever move."


Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, a presidential hopeful who abandoned the race after failing to collect enough signatures to back his candidature, says the alliance is a gift of fate.


"Who in Tekebaev's camp could have thought that they would receive such powerful support. Assuming the elections are fair, we can already start congratulating Omurbek Tekebaev."


Sultan Djumagulov is a regular IWPR contributor.


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