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Kyrgyz opposition demanding earlier date for presidential election

Photo: kapital.kz

President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev may travel to Moscow on June 20. A preliminary arrangement on the visit was made at the behest of the Kyrgyz leader on sidelines of the EAEU and CSTO summit in Bishkek on April 14, a local source told EADaily.

Although Almazbek Atambayev’s term is coming to an end, he needs to enlist Russia’s support in current uneasy domestic political situation in his country, amid arrests of some opposition politicians, heavy sentences and continuing trials. All this has resulted in public polarization and different assessment of the government activity. Ata Meken opposition party demands earlier date for the presidential election. It insists on August 27 as deadline for voting under the constitution instead of the announced date - November 19, 2017.

Part of the public welcomes Ata Meken party’s demand. The government, in turn, says Ata Meken demands postponement of the election to gain time to register its leader Omurbek Tekebayev as a candidate for president. Tekebayev is currently in a pretrial detention facility over corruption charges and the Party needs to register him as candidate for president before the court verdict; otherwise it will be late. Tekebayev’s supporters do not conceal their plans to organize protests.

After experiencing two revolutions, Kyrgyzstan is still in political turbulence. Toktogul Kakchekeyev, a political analyst, military expert, tells about the current developments in his country in an interview with EADaily.

Who else besides Ata Meken may seek change of the election date?

This is the desire of those who are convicted or kept in remand prison at the State National Security Committee. They are charged with looting or corruption. I am speaking, first, about Ata Meken leader Omurbek Tekebayev, who was arrested in February and is now in the remand prison. Those charged with a coup attempt also seek postponement of the election. Their hopes for freedom are diminishing every day. The sooner Almazbek Atambayev leaves and a new president comes, the more chances for amnesty they will have.

Can they spark unrests in Kyrgyzstan?

At present, Kyrgyzstan lacks well-organized and influential oppositionists. Second, strict actions by the law-enforcement against Zhaparov (ex-MP Sadir Zhaparov was arrested in April 2017 over kidnapping and assassination attempt of an official in 2013 – EADaily’s note), Tekebayev and others frighten the local elite. During the period of those arrests, human rights NGOs have disappeared from the political arena, kept a low profile by someone’s order, to save themselves for the future. They worked quite well in Kyrgyzstan receiving dozens of millions of dollars and creating political platforms, groups of human rights defenders who interfered with the activity of the government. Officials did not oppose activity of such influential human rights defenders who partially supported the government or parliamentarians.

Kyrgyzstan has an established market of political parties and they started speaking of selling the seats in the parliament, for example, Akhmatbek Keldibekov’s coming to power (in 2010, Keldibekov was appointed parliament speaker and in a year, he faced corruption charges and then was set free for insufficient evidence – EADaily’s note). Recently, oppositionist Omurbek Abdurakhmanov and his team declared they donated more than $300,000 to Ata Meken Party. What does it mean? Anyone who pays a certain amount can claim a post in any of the power branches.

Within 25 years, a sustainable political market has developed here. However, anyone who pays wants a guaranteed return. When something goes wrong, they make loud statements. At present, the opposition is “addressing” Western mass media with statements that totalitarianism is developing in Kyrgyzstan, opposition to the government is being neutralized etc. At the same time, there are no oppositionists seeking power not for personal gain. At some moment, in Kyrgyzstan they tried to support agriculture, made loans more accessible, billions of soms were distributed to agricultural farms. However, they wasted the money and then they started demanding the government to repay for their loans. Rejected, they took to the streets. The situation is not the same in Kyrgyzstan anymore.

What is the main reason? What has led the country to such situation?

Abuse of power, appointment of their insiders at the ministries. This came to light after a criminal case was filed against Tekebayev. It has turned out that not only the political market but also shadow economy is prospering in the country. Reportedly, it is 50% at present. This means that taxes are underpaid to the state budget. Those in power back shadow economies. All this came to light amid discrepancies of the government and opposition, specifically those discontented who earlier could gather 15,000-20,000 people to make a coup. However, President Atambayev said no more coups will be in Kyrgyzstan, since he will leave and the next president will be the one who will win the election. Meantime, this does not meet the interests of those who are under investigation now. That is why they demand bringing the voting day forward by two months.

You think the change of the voting day will change nothing, don’t you? May it happen that Tekebayev is registered as a candidate for president, gets immunity and avoids punishment?

Such option is possible. However, the parliamentary immunity of Tekebayev has been cancelled. He is a suspect and the new legislation bans such tricks. There is much tension around the issue of power change, organizations of rallies in Bishkek, in the small motherland. Under pressure of protests, Tekebayev would like to repeat the experience of Felix Kulov and Topchubek Turgunaliyev (Kulov was convicted under president Askar Akayev and then was set free after Akayev’s overthrow and Bakiyev’s coming to power. Turgunaliyev – the founder of Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan was convicted in September 2000 for 16 years over assassination attempt against Akayev - EADaily). They have exchanged prison cells with seats it government.

Is there any serious threat from radical extremists?

Commenting on the recent terror attack in St. Petersburg, Head of Russian Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov said it was failure of the operative activity. He said FSS agencies and operative officers need to focus on covert intelligence work including in the countries threatening with terrorism i.e. the countries where terrorists are trained. It is a hard but very efficient work. Americans have settled that problem quite easily. They created non-governmental organizations that are almost CIA agents. Russia treated too gently not to offend anyone. Now, here in Kyrgyzstan we have 37,000 NGO workers of about 5,000 organizations. They have seats in the parliament, CEC and other organizations. A “hot coup” with shooting no longer threatens Kyrgyzstan. The country may face a “silent coup.” The major threat in Kyrgyzstan comes from those who strive for power and those who support them.

EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau

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