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Atambayev vs. Zheenbekov: Kyrgyzstan on its way to dual power

At the closed-door congress of Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), ex-president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev harshly criticized his successor Sooronbay Jeenbekov. He blamed the president for autocracy, corruption and deviation from political program presented to voters. Actually, ex-president has returned to political field four years after handing over power to his successor. What is happening in Kyrgyzstan? What to expect from the very unstable post-Soviet country? Ravshan Dzheenbekov, oppositionist, former MP of Kyrgyzstan, commends on these and other questions of EADaily.

What is behind the spoiled relations of Almazbek Sharshenovich and Sooronbay Sharipovich?

Expectations of the ex-president are clear – he thought that the new president inspired with the feeling of gratitude towards him would do everything he would tell him. That is, Atambayev planned to govern the country sitting in his residency. Perhaps, such scenario is possible in other countries, but never in Kyrgyzstan with its tribalism and regionalism problems. Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s team started setting its conditions to Atambayev in human resources, financial and even ethical issues, which sparked discrepancies. Jeenbekov started waging his policy without coordinating it with Atambayev. For instance, he said there is no one to combat corruption in the country, as corruption has “corroded” courts and security forces.

It was a severe blow upon Atambayev’s self-esteem, as he had been “reporting” about successes in anti-corruption measures for all the seven years of his presidency. At the SDPK congress, Atambayev said Jeenbekov seeks to change the development vector, shifting from the parliamentary to strong presidential system of government. It is possible. Perhaps, it has become another serious reason for discrepancies of the ex-president and incumbent president.

How much can SDPK leader Almazbek Atambayev influence the country’s policy?

He still has serious resources, levers of power, such as, for instance, Prosecutor General’s Office, National Security Service, Financial Police. However, he lost the parliament after it took Jeenbekov’s side. This was not made public, but the parliament supports the president.

Do you mean that SDPK is splitting as well?

Sure, the party will not admit that fact, but it is very hard to conceal anything in Kyrgyzstan. There is no SDPK as such, at least, it is not the same anymore. SDPK has turned into a regional party within the borders of Chuy Region – the Jeenbekov clan that backed SDPK will now establish its own political organization.

During SDPK congress, Almazbek Atambayev demanded the former parliament speaker, MP Asylbek Jeenbekov – the president’s brother – to step down. Are his demands for resignation of the parliamentarian and the president substantiated?

I don’t think such changes are possible now. Quite the contrary, President Jeenbekov will launch staff reshuffles in the security agencies, first. After such public conflict and Atambayev’s corruption claims, Jeenbekov will hustle.

How powerful is he?

Jeenbekov is weak so far, but the people and officials are ready to support him. If he manages to make staff reshuffles in the security agencies and shows his plans to start reforms, he will gain more power.

What will happen in the opposition camp? Will they support the president? Or will Atambayev declare himself opposition to the president, and it will be very hard to find out who supports whom, won’t it?

Most oppositionists who are free from any party ideology support Jeenbekov at least because they have always opposed Almazbek Atambayev. For instance, Zamandash Party actively cooperates with the president. Almost all the parliamentary parties are on Jeenbekov’s side as well. All politicians who were somehow offended by the former government will support Jeenbekov. Nevertheless, nothing lasts long in Kyrgyzstan. All this is temporary too.

Will this political crisis grow into “a hot phase”?

There is such a probability, indeed. Almazbek Atambayev is a professional politician, whatever appearances. He is rather a brave personality. He still holds solid resources – financial, foreign policy, and certain support by Russia. He may decide to escalate the situation and force competition upon the president. However, Jeenbekov will resist successfully, if he relies on heavyweight politicians, such as former minister of defense Ismail Isakov, former parliamentary speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov, leader of Ata-Jurt Party Kamchybek Tashiyev, as well as former president of the transitional period Rosa Otumbayeva, former prime minister Feliks Kulov who have authority in the north of the country. He will easily withstand and survive the political crisis, if he launches security and justice reforms. If Jeenbekov fails to act and remains silent as “Atambayev’s successor,” the ex-president will catch the initiative. As for the people, they used to support the strongest one.

EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau

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