Leader of Ata-Meken (Fatherland) Party of Kyrgyzstan, MP Omurbek Tekebayev was arrested over corruption claims. The arrest of one of the opposition leaders has sparked protests in capital city Bishkek and in some regions. People threaten the government with termless protests unless the situation with Tekebayev gets a fair solution. Some experts see a start of a new revolution in that most uneasy country in Central Asia. In an interview with EADaily, Ravshan Jeenbekov, a well-known oppositionist politician, former MP, tells what, in fact, is happening in Kyrgyzstan.
What is your opinion of Omurbek Tekebayev’s arrest? Is it a crackdown on opposition or a true corruption case?
The case bears no relation to corruption, in fact. Why? First, why did they start considering the issue just now when Tekebayev is joining our opposition camp? If it is corruption, why didn’t they address the issue during the past seven years? Second, it is an act of revenge of President Almazbek Atambayev. The president is not tolerant. He does not bear anyone in his surroundings who disagrees with him. Tekebayev and Atambayev were in one team. They had worked in a tandem for 5-6 years and discussed many political and economic issues together. Today, when Tekebayev joined the opposition camp, he is angered and decided to revenge. Third, it is a crackdown on opposition ahead of the presidential election, removal of political rivals, so that he (Atambayev) could nominate his successor on the post of president.
Actually, the president stokes the public sentiment and make people take the streets. Does it mean that we may see snap election?
The president has repeatedly said that everything is stable here. He claimed that during his tenure, he has managed to ensure stabile political situation in the country. Unfortunately, he was the first to violate that political stability. The country is entering the zone of turbulence now, as political processes have intensified rapidly. Many discontented politicians have united against the president already. Many in the opposition dislike Tekebayev too. The opposition has united mainly to oppose the president. In such situation, Tekebayev is a kind of victim. They use him.
Meantime, they have arrested not only Tekebayev, but also the ex-minister of emergency situations, supporters of Ata-Meken, and even journalists.
Journalists were set free soon after detention. About 10 members of Ata-Meken Party were detained within five days. I would not call the former minister Tekebayev’s supporter. Perhaps, they were once in the same boat, but their paths diverged long ago.
Observers say the ongoing rallies are not and will hardly grow large enough to trigger changes in the political situation in the country. What do you think about it?
The current rallies cannot be called large-scale ones, indeed. However, the political process is just starting. Spring is coming, it will be warm and the people will more actively engage in political processes.
Do you link the arrests and the upcoming visit of Vladimir Putin (the Russian president will be traveling to Kyrgyzstan on February 28)?
I don’t think it was planned, it was rather a coincidence. Our authorities are more emotional, they have no strict calculations, plans, or consistent steps. They often act emotionally. As I have said, Atambayev sought revenge and he did it.
What do you anticipate from Putin’s visit? Are there any documents to be signed? They say Putin is traveling to see the successor…
It is hardly possible. It is too insignificant an event for the Russian president to arrive in Kyrgyzstan to see some successors. All the nominees hurry to Moscow to introduce themselves. I think Central Asia remains committed to Russia unlike other zones of its influence. Perhaps, President Putin decided to “examine” it personally. In such case, it would be wrong not to travel to Kyrgyzstan at least for a half-day. At the same time, I see no important issues that could be discussed at such high level now. Russia does not fund Kyrgyzstan’s budget. The budget crumbles away. The planned construction of HPP has failed. The leadership of Kyrgyzstan is waging a multi-vector policy, focusing on China and EU. Perhaps, it will be the subject of talks. Putin wants to retain influence on Kyrgyzstan.
Who is who in the opposition camp in Kyrgyzstan?
The opposition field is very diverse. There are many discontented politicians, but the opposition is not monolith. What unites it is the discontent with the president. Some forces regularly unite around various interests – regional, ideological. It is hard to say if that unity will end.
Will they launch a snap election not to let the opposition unite, get prepared and nominate its candidate?
No. It is easy to find out it. I am experienced enough, as I worked both in the government, in power and in the opposition. I see no reasons or persons able to go on snap election or to have grounds to speak about it. Everything goes according to the plan so far, everything meets schedule.