Political situation remains tenuous in Kyrgyzstan
|Publication Date||28 October 2005|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Political situation remains tenuous in Kyrgyzstan, 28 October 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46cc3226c.html [accessed 24 May 2013]|
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The political situation remains tenuous in Kyrgyzstan, which over the past week has been buffeted by protests related to the murder of a member of parliament.
On October 28, roughly 1,000 protesters turned out in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to support Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, who faced calls for his resignation following the killing of MP Tynychbek Akmatbayev. The pro-Kulov demonstrators called on President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to take a tougher stance against criminal groups, which reportedly are exerting growing influence over Kyrgyzstan's political and economic development.
Akmatbayev, who served as chairman of the parliament's committee for law and order, was killed October 20 after being taken hostage during a visit to Moldavanovka prison, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) outside Bishkek. Ikmatulla Polotov, the chief of Kyrgyzstan's prison system, also died of wounds suffered during the hostage incident, which underscored the deplorable conditions in Kyrgyz jails.
The murder sparked five days of protests by hundreds of Akmatbayev's relatives and supporters, who blamed Kulov for the incident and demanded his dismissal. The protest leader, Rysbek Akmatbayev, a brother of the murdered MP, is a reputed criminal kingpin in Kyrgyzstan. According to a commentary published October 25 in the weekly Vecherny Bishkek, a variety of criminal charges, including murder, kidnapping and racketeering, are pending against Rysbek.
The circumstances surrounding the killing remain murky. However, Rysbek Akmatbayev insisted that his brother died as a result of a pre-meditated act. "This murder was prepared in advance. My brother should not have visited that prison camp – he was lured in there by lies. The people who attacked him were already expecting him," Rysbek told journalists on October 22.
The anti-Kulov protests ended on October 27 after Bakiyev promised a full investigation into the killing. The protesters said they would suspend their activities at least until the completion of the official investigation. Kulov has adamantly denied any involvement in Akmatbayev's death, and he characterized the protests seeking his ouster as an attempt by criminal elements to undermine stability in Kyrgyzstan, which has struggled to regain a sense of political, economic and social equilibrium ever since the March revolution that drove former president Askar Akayev from power.
Some political observers in Bishkek were alarmed by the fact that Bakiyev chose to negotiate with a reputed gangster such as Rysbek Akmatbayev. "It is clear that Bakiyev has no right to follow Rysbek Akmatbayev's lead. If he does, it [could mean] the end of his government, as well as Kyrgyzstan's statehood that he symbolizes," said a Vecherny Bishkek commentary on October 25.
Local analysts say the prison incident and subsequent anti-Kulov protests have helped focus outside attention on the power of organized crime figures in Kyrgyzstan. Many believe that criminal groups played a significant role in helping Bakiyev and other then-opposition leaders drive Akayev from power in March. Since then, criminals have become increasingly assertive. Bakiyev, some observers add, is reluctant to tangle with mobsters, who retain the ability to sow instability in the capital.
Tolekan Ismailova, the head of the non-government human rights group Citizens Against Corruption, recently told journalists in Bishkek: "We have a systemic crisis in the penitentiary system, exacerbated by the fact that funding from underworld figures was used in the March revolution".
Other political analysts suggest that Bakiyev's decision to negotiate an end to the anti-Kulov protests represented the most pragmatic option available to him. They explained that Bakiyev's government remains weak and an attempt to use force against the protesters easily could have resulted in broader instability.
Posted October 28, 2005 © Eurasianet