New Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov will pay his first visit abroad to Russia, head of the foreign policy department of the presidential administration Aizada Subakozjoeva has announced. She stressed the visit will take place on Nov 29 under an invitation of the Russian side.
To remind, Jeenbekov took office last Friday. And from Dec 1 he is to feel (without even getting used to the presidential powers) how the powers are shrinking. On this day, amendments to the Kyrgyz constitution will come into force that were approved at the referendum of Dec 11, 2016. The amendments will expand the powers of the prime minister and parliament, but cut the presidential powers.
Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s visit to Russia is not only significant in showing the priorities of the new president in foreign policy, but can be of practical value. The economic situation in Kyrgyzstan is heading downhill. The outcomes of the unregulated relations with Kazakhstan that is still keeping the border under a strict control do spread in all sectors of the economy paralyzing them partially or fully. The situation is that they in Bishkek speak louder and louder about early elections to the parliament, as if this measure is what Astana claims promising to ease the border regime.
“Growing gasoline and consumer goods prices, the unresolved dispute with Kazakhstan can provoke the elections,” Kyrgyz political analyst Mars Sariyev has told EADaily. He believes that early elections can be used to prevent the counter elites from uniting.
“Everyone will be busy in struggling for the mandate. Ex-president Almazbek Atambayev having all power levers despite the fact that he left the post is interested that the parliament is occupied by a new cohort of politicians that owes to him, ‘the Father of the Nation,’ getting into power. That is why he, while being involved in strengthening his Social Democratic Party can play for early elections and by the way revive bankrupt parties like ‘Kyrgyzstan.’ So, I see next parliament like this: a strong Social Democratic Party and one or two parties that will be working for development instead of making the oligarchs richer,” Sariyev said.
Taking this into account, the Moscow Jeenbekov’s visit can show if the new president will follow the rules of the previous one, as it had been possibly discussed, or start showing signs of independence right after the election. If Jeenbekov does not ask for support in Moscow to overcome the crisis and eliminate the reasons of the confrontation with Kazakhstan, they would hardly avoid early parliamentary elections and Atambayev’s scenario, at least, at the initial stage. If the new Kyrgyz president really wins Moscow’s support, one can conclude that Atambayev made a mistake when choosing his successor.
According t Sariyev, Prime Minister Sapar Isakov was appointed to prevent from this. “When putting his men on sensitive posts, Atambayev secured himself not to let a power grab happen. Since Dec 1, when the new constitution comes into force, there will a situation when the president will have to take into account what the prime minister thinks. It gives guarantees to Atambayev that Jeenbekov would not feel temptation to become an independent political figure. But Jeenbekov does not need conflicts now, he needs to get rooted. Growing Isakov will not be ready to compete with Jeenbekov soon, although he has big powers, and by 100% he is supported by Atambayev. Isakov will take actions, if Jeenbekov decides to spin out of control, he will be capable of neutralizing the president’s attempts,” Mars Sariyev told EADaily.
Answering the question if Jeenbekov would try to remove the government in order to get rid of the pushy Isakov’s surveillance and start amending the constitution to enlarge his powers, the analyst noted that right now the president has no resources to reverse the situation.
“Atambayev was busy with arrangements in the government almost until his last day in office. He finished the job a couple of days before Jeenbekov’s inauguration. He was carefully preparing his retreat from office and put all the figures on the chessboard the way he wanted. Jeenbekov has no such team that could be able to construct the reality the ex-president had. In this connection, I would like to remind the story of the parliamentary speaker, one of the leaders of the ruling Social Democratic Party Chynybai Tursunbekovю He received a message from Moscow saying they would support him at the presidential election. He started his game inside the party and announced his plans to run for presidency. As a result, he had nothing and took a back seat. Atambayev showed then what would happen if one does not observe the rules of the game,” Sariyev said.
Director of the Center for Regional Studies Aibek Sultangaziev agrees that the president and prime minister of Kyrgyzstan will continue acting together at least for some time.
“The relations between them will be constructive. Sooronbay Jeenbekov is a bureaucrat who know the limits of his powers. Sapar Isakov is a young skilled government official who learns fast and can get a grip on the situation,” he said.
In this light, the Kyrgyz-Kazakh conflict should be treated separately. If the Kyrgyz leadership resorts to early parliamentary elections, it might be interested in continuing the confrontation with the neighbor state that will deteriorate the social and economic situation in the country.
“I do not think that Atambayev’s attacks against Astana were spontaneous or emotional as many observers are inclined to state. The ex-president established the image of an enemy in the face of Kazakhstan deliberately and created an image of a parson who betrays the motherland, this is former prime minister Omurbek Babanov. It is a very processible and cheap action that let Atambayev reach his goal,” Mars Sariyev told EADaily.
According to him, the relations with Kazakhstan will finally improve. Bishkek hopes that while the EAEU is Vladimir Putin’s pet project, he will help clearing out the Augean stables and, simultaneously, Nursultan Nazarbayev would ease the curb a bit.
“Actually, this situation suits Moscow well, too. Nazarbayev’s policy to abandon the Cyrillic alphabet, military drills with the USA, all this has made Russia worried. The scandal initiated by Atambayev, can meet Russia’s interests. Because a weakened Nazarbayev will suit Moscow more than a strong one, and using the situation, Moscow will be able to influence him,” Mars Sariyev said.
EADaily Central Asian Bureau