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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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 Bakiev’s 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 Kulov’s all-or nothing-demands for the 
president’s 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 president’s 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,” 
he said.

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 Kulov’s 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 Front’s radical demands for an early 
presidential election.”

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 Kulov’s words, “on April 11, a peaceful transfer of power will take place by 
constitutional means”.

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 Akaev’s 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 opposition’s demands are tactical ploys and 
tricks. Until the system is changed, no one will be able to achieve these 
[opposition-defined] goals.”

Some analysts suggest that the issue is not that Bakiev’s 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 
rejectionist policy. 

“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 opposition’s 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. IWPR’s News Briefing 
Central Asia agency contributed additional reporting.


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 Kyrgyzstan’s 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 Nazarabev’s 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 
Kyrgyz economy. 

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, Kazakstan’s 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.

“There’s 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 they’ve 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 Kazakstan’s current authorities may have implications for Kyrgyzstan’s 
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 Kyrgyzstan’s 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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