WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 488, April 6, 2007
NO GIVE AND TAKE IN KYRGYZ STAND-OFF The president offers his opponents more
and more concessions, but all they want is his resignation. By Taalaibek
Amanov in Bishkek
KYRGYZ DIVISIONS OVER KAZAK INVESTMENT Some here suggest that the influx of
Kazak finance may not serve national interests. By Aziza Turdueva in Bishkek
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NO GIVE AND TAKE IN KYRGYZ STAND-OFF
The president offers his opponents more and more concessions, but all they want
is his resignation.
By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek
On the face of it, Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev is bending over backwards
to satisfy the opposition and defuse political tensions. Yet after appointing
an opponent as prime minister, pledging constitutional reform and meeting other
demands set out by opposition groups, he has still not succeeded in dissuading
them from mass protests later this month
At one level, Kyrgyz politics resembles a game of chess between the two main
protagonists the president and Felix Kulov, the leader of the United Front
for a Worthy Future for Kyrgyzstan.
The complication is that there are not two but three major players in the game,
and the rules are constantly changing.
Until January 26, Kulov was Bakievs prime minister, while the main opposition
force was the Movement for Democratic Reforms itself consisting of groups
that brought Bakiev to power in the March 2005 revolution but subsequently grew
disillusioned with his rule.
After Kulov left office, he set up the United Front which immediately adopted a
more radical position than the Movement for Reforms, which now found itself in
the middle ground, vacillating between Kulovs all-or nothing-demands for the
presidents resignation, or working with what concessions the authorities were
prepared to offer.
On the government side, the ground has been shifting rapidly as well. >From a
position of no compromise, Bakiev has begun offering one concession after
another over the last couple of weeks.
First, he indicated that he was prepared to negotiate with opposition leaders,
and met Almazbek Atambaev of the Movement for Reforms on March 21. Two days
later, he gave a televised address to the nation which was trailed as a
response to the list of demands the opposition delegation had presented to him.
A return to a confrontation would be fatal for the country. I call on
political forces to engage in a constructive dialogue, he said in the address.
But apart from calling for dialogue, the president offered compromise in only
one area, pledging to launch constitutional reforms and outlining the mechanism
a working group to make that happen as soon as possible.
The constitution has been central to the dispute between the Bakiev
administration and the Movement for Reforms. After a week of street protests in
early November, Bakiev unexpectedly agreed to a new version of the constitution
which significantly curbed his authority. But in late December, after Kulov and
his cabinet resigned in hope of forcing an early parliamentary election, Bakiev
used the impasse to force another set of constitutional amendments through the
legislature, restoring some of his powers.
Then, on March 26, he agreed to another key demand transforming the state
television and radio company into a public broadcasting service. A bill
proposing this measure went through parliament last June, but Bakiev vetoed it
at the time.
The most significant concession came on March 29, when the president appointed
Atambaev as prime minister to head up a new coalition government. The
appointment was confirmed by parliament within 24 hours.
Atambaev is leader of the Social Democratic Party and served as minister for
industry, trade and tourism until October 2006, when he resigned because he
disagreed with the presidents policies. He then became co-chairman of the
opposition Movement for Reforms, which he has recently stepped away from.
As parliament approved him in office, Atambaev explained that he wanted use his
position to build bridges.
The divide between the regime and the opposition is widening day by day. I do
not want to see this country fall apart, so I will try to form a government
which will become a bridge between the regime and the opposition.
State Secretary Adakhan Madumarov told IWPR that the Bakiev was making a
concerted effort to engage the opposition in government.
The doors of Government House are open, and anyone from the opposition who
wishes to do so can join the coalition government. All problems can be solved
through talks, and the authorities are rushing to meet the opposition halfway,
The United Front immediately refused to be part of any coalition, and said it
was pressing ahead with planning its April 11 rally.
More surprisingly, the prospect of a coalition government led by one of its own
recent members prompted the Movement for Reforms to jump and rather than
accepting the offer, it tied its colours firmly to the mast of Kulovs group.
A joint statement by the two groups said Bakiev has not fulfilled a single one
the promises he made to the people.
In the absence of willing contenders from the opposition, the cabinet changes
made by Atambaev were unremarkable. One casualty in the reshuffle was First
Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov, who was disliked by opposition groups.
Tamerlan Ibraimov, head of the Centre for Political and Legal Studies,
commented,The fact that Atambaev has been appointed prime minister does not
create the space for a political consensus between the authorities and the
opposition. The confrontation will continue until instruments and mechanisms
are found for moderating the United Fronts radical demands for an early
As this report was published, no such mechanisms were apparent. The April rally
was still going ahead, now with the backing of both opposition movements, and
the principal demand was that Bakiev must go.
In Kulovs words, on April 11, a peaceful transfer of power will take place by
The United Front and the Movement for Reforms continue to operate as separate
entities, with some crossover of membership, and they have agreed that neither
will talk to the authorities without consulting the other.
The opposition is now stronger and more united than ever before, Omurbek
Tekebaev, the former speaker of parliament who is now a rank-and-file deputy
and a member of both opposition groups, told IWPR.
For many in the opposition, it is Bakiev himself who is the problem, however
many concessions he makes. His opponents many of them recent political allies
blame him for all the problems Kyrgyzstan has had since its liberation from
President Askar Akaevs rule in March 2005, and accuse him everything from
failing to institute reforms to turning a blind eye to nepotism and corruption.
We refuse to be part of the government because we do not believe the president
is sincere in the statements he makes, said Tekebaev. We suspect that all the
moves he has made to satisfy the oppositions demands are tactical ploys and
tricks. Until the system is changed, no one will be able to achieve these
Some analysts suggest that the issue is not that Bakievs concessions are
inadequate, but that the slow and apparently confused manner with which they
have materialised suggests that they are not backed by sincerity.
You get the impression that the president is making an attempt to split the
opposition, said political analyst Nur Omarov. He was late in creating a
coalition government - he should have done it in November, when the opposition
demanded it. Now the only people prepared to join a coalition cabinet are those
who have lost political authority and influence. And that only goes to make
things worse rather than better, and shows that the president is trying to save
his own skin.
But there are others who say the coalition is the best deal on offer, and the
opposition should grab it with both hands rather than doggedly pursuing their
I hope the arrival of Atambaev will calm things down and prevent the country
dividing in two, deputy Iskhak Masaliev told IWPR. It will lead to a
redistribution of power in government, and he will act as a kind of
The oppositions continued refusal to come to the table threatens to split the
state and the nation, just so that they [opposition] can achieve their own
personal goals, said Masaliev.
A hint of the next move in this high-stakes game came from State Secretary
Madumarov, who said that if the opposition will not negotiate or join the
coalition cabinet, a national referendum might be called in which people would
be asked for a vote of confidence in the president.
Unless the authorities and the opposition can find ways to resolve the current
situation, then the people will decide, said Madumarov.
Taalaibek Amanov is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek. IWPRs News Briefing
Central Asia agency contributed additional reporting.
KYRGYZ DIVISIONS OVER KAZAK INVESTMENT
Some here suggest that the influx of Kazak finance may not serve national
By Aziza Turdueva in Bishkek
The forthcoming official visit of Kazak president Nursultan Nazarbaev to
neighbouring Kyrgyzstan is seen by the Kyrgyz leadership as an opportunity to
follow up investment pledges.
Kazakstan is one of the leading investors in Kyrgyzstans fragile economy,
which relies heavily on foreign capital.
But critics of the Kyrgyz government say there is a risk that growing
investment from Kazakstan could lead to its economic dominance over its smaller
They also argue that the corruption inherent in the Kyrgyz government means
there is a possibility that Kazak investors may begin to wield political as
well as economic influence, by lobbying Kyrgyz politicians.
President Nazarabevs visit - which is set for mid-April - follows a meeting
with Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiev in Astana last year, at which the
two sides agreed to cooperate on investment.
Bakiev promised to create the most favourable conditions for Kazak business,
while his Kazak counterpart pledged to invest 2.5 billion US dollars in the
But many claim that the Kyrgyz leadership - keen to secure political support
from Astana - is giving too much and asking little in return.
Kanybek Imanaliev, a Kyrgyz deputy, believes the Bishkek authorities should not
place a desire to acquire Kazak investment over their own national interests.
He argues that that while creating favourable conditions for Kazak investors,
the Kyrgyz leadership should ask for certain concessions in return - such as
improving the living and working conditions for tens of thousands of Kyrgyz
labour migrants in Kazakstan.
According to political analyst Mars Sariev, Kazakstans financial expansion
into Kyrgyzstan is seen as particularly threatening because it has chosen to
invest in sectors of strategic importance, such as energy, banking, and
Already, there are several successful Kazak banks working in Kyrgyzstan -
including Kazkomertsbank, Alyans Bank, and Energo Bank.
Sariev says that the corruption inherent in the Kyrgyz government means there
is a real danger that Kazak investors could sway politicians.
Theres a danger that the level of corruption in the government will lead to
representatives from the top echelons of power driven by their material
interests, to offer stakes in large strategically important enterprises, he
Kyrgyz businessman Omurbek Abdrakhmanov says that once theyve established a
dominant position in the Kyrgyz economy, there will be little to stop Kazak
executives from using their influence.
Kazak businesses can finance their representatives in parliament and in other
state bodies. They may also finance political parties in Kyrgyzstan to get
their own representatives into parliament. After this, it will be easy for them
to lobby not just their economic interests, but their political interests as
well, he said.
Kyrgyz deputy Azimbek Beknazarov agrees, and says there are unscrupulous
government officials eager to lend support to Kazak investors, even at the
expense of national interests.
Economic expert Sapar Orozbakov warns that a dominance of investors with links
to Kazakstans current authorities may have implications for Kyrgyzstans
stability, particularly if power changes hands in Astana.
As far as I know, the investment in Kyrgyzstan is linked to people at the top
of the political world in Kazakstan. If they were to leave, they might want to
withdraw capital from the region, he said.
But Kazak analyst Eduard Poletaev says the fear that Kazak businesses will
force out Kyrgyz ones is unfounded, and is being used as a tool by some
politicians to manipulate voters.
The same happened in the Baltic countries, where politicians scored a lot of
points by scaring people with the claim that Russian business would buy out
everything, he said.
He also points out that the areas in which the government would welcome
investment are not always seen as viable, or attractive to investors.
It could be that Kyrgyzstan wants Kazak investment to go into the collapsed
manufacturing sector, into industry, he said.
While others maintain that with Kyrgyzstans ailing economy in need of a cash
injection, it should welcome investment from any source.
We need to be open to all foreign investors. The political situation in the
country should also help to attract investments. Both the government and the
opposition should be interested in this, said political analyst Orozbek
Sapar Orozbakov, an expert on economic issues, agrees, For as long as
Kyrgyzstan requires foreign investment, we cannot restrict the investment of
Kazak capital in our economy.
Economist Jyldyz Sarybaeva shares this view, and argues that Kazakstan has much
to offer its neighbour.
There are objective reasons - such as geographic vicinity, its level of
economic development, and amassed capital - for Kazak investors bringing their
capital to us, she said.
Sarybaeva dismisses the notion that there is a hidden political agenda behind
Kazak investment. Their only interests are economic benefits - the profit they
can make in Kyrgzstan, she argued.
While her colleague Gani Abdyrasulov points out that Kyrgyzstan cannot afford
to be choosy, With the unstable situation in the country, Kyrgyzstan does not
have a great choice of investors. We should give Kazak investors credit for
continuing to invest in our economy despite the political conditions here.
He believes that it is up to the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure that investment
is properly regulated to avoid investors becoming too powerful.
The government should make sure that the influx of Kazak capital into various
sectors of the economy is properly controlled, he said. The foreign investor
should not be given the controlling stake.
Aziza Turdueva is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.
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