WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 594, November 6, 2009
JOBS FOR THE BOYS IN KYRGYZSTAN President accused of heading for dynastic rule
after appointing son to top job. By Yevgenia Kim in Bishkek
KYRGYZ SQUATTERS WITH NOWHERE TO GO Residents fear being made homeless as
Bishkek authorities move to demolish shantytown. By Asyl Osmonalieva in Bishkek
TURKMEN PRESIDENT FAILS TO FULFIL INTERNET PLEDGE Hopes for uncensored web
access further threatened as international resource centres close. By IWPR
staff in Central Asia
TAJIKS CLEAR THE AIR WITH MOSCOW After months of turbulence in relations with
Russia, the Tajik leader seems to have smoothed things over and gained
significant concessions. By Daler Gufronov in Dushanbe
STRENGTHENING TOP-DOWN RULE IN KYRGYZSTAN Reforms contain many retrograde
steps and look like an attempt to bolster president. By Pavel Dyatlenko in
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JOBS FOR THE BOYS IN KYRGYZSTAN
President accused of heading for dynastic rule after appointing son to top job.
By Yevgenia Kim in Bishkek
A decision by President Kurmanbek Bakiev to appoint his son Maxim to head a new
agency set up as a driving force for his recently-unveiled economic reforms has
provoked a strong reaction in Kyrgyzstan.
On October 29, Maxim Bakiev was named as head of the new Central Agency for
Development, Investment and Innovation. The body will be in charge of
rebuilding the economy, attracting investment and supporting private enterprise.
President Bakiev unveiled the Presidential Institution when he announced
wide-ranging reforms at an October 20 meeting with government officials. It is
intended to be the engine of change, providing technocratic, bureaucracy-free
leadership as Kyrgyzstan grapples with the effects of global economic crisis .
The development and investment agency is part of the Presidential Institution,
a powerful new structure under the direct control of the head of state which
will incorporate key decision-making functions, including some previously
carried out by the prime minister and his government.
Some analysts see the appointment of Maxim Bakiev as evidence that the
president is concentrating political power in the hands of his family in
exactly the same way that his predecessor Askar Akaev did. They even suspect he
may be grooming a successor.
Rashid Tagaev, a member of parliament from the presidents Ak Jol party, said
the choice of Maxim Bakiev was right and timely.
Some analysts agree that there are merits in the appointment, saying that
Bakiev junior could be the right man for the job, given his strong business
background and his youth at 32, he comes from a new post-Soviet generation
familiar with market mechanisms.
For many years, he was a successful businessman and he has contacts in this
field, said political analyst Marat Kazakbaev. There is no doubt at all that
this will help attract major foreign investments to Kyrgyzstan.
Economist Temir Jumakadyrov believes the president chose his son to head the
economic agency precisely because it is such a tough job. The downside, he
said, was that if Bakiev junior was unable to deliver, the president would be
placed in a difficult position.
Maxim Bakiev, the younger of the presidents two sons, obtained a law degree in
Bishkek in 1999, and went into business. In the five years that his father has
been president he has worked as a business consultant.
When Bakiev came to power in 2005 following mass protests which prompted
President Akaev to flee the country, he pledged to put an end to the emerging
dynastic system which was one of the main complaints against the regime at the
One of the aims of the March revolution was to put an end to the dynastic rule
of the first president, recalled Almazbek Atambaev, once an ally of Bakievs
in the ranks of the anti-Akaev opposition, and now an opponent who challenged
him unsuccessfully in the July presidential election.
But when the new man came to power, he immediately forgot all about that.
Another former ally of Bakiev, Azimbek Beknazarov, now leader of the United
People Movement, the main opposition bloc in Kyrgyzstan, says that early on,
Bakiev promised him personally that he would not fall into the same trap as
But what President Bakiev has been doing since then is more or less the same,
he said. Under Akaev, we had four presidents his son, his daughter and his
wife and him.
Other Bakiev family members in senior posts include his eldest son Marat, who
is deputy head of the national security service, control of which has passed
from government to the president as part of the institutional restructuring.
The presidents brother Janysh is head of the Presidential Guard, while other
brothers have also held high-profile jobs in government.
Political analyst Miroslav Niazov sees the addition of Maxim Bakiev as the most
significant appointment of all in a campaign he says is all about
concentrating power in the hands of one family.
You will see that in due course, the president will want to make his son his
successor. The Akaev family situation is repeating itself, he said.
After his re-election in July, President Bakiev cannot run for a further term.
Assigning Maxim Bakiev a senior position is, in the eyes of some analysts, the
first step towards creating a career in politics for him. By the time the next
election falls due in 2014, the younger Bakiev will have passed the minimum age
limit of 35, making him eligible to run for office, according to the
According to Bolot Januzakov, an opposition politician, the same constitution
should have ruled him out altogether.
The constitution states clearly that close relatives of the countrys
president cannot occupy positions that are directly subordinated to him, he
Yevgenia Kim reports for the internet publication Kloop.kg.
KYRGYZ SQUATTERS WITH NOWHERE TO GO
Residents fear being made homeless as Bishkek authorities move to demolish
By Asyl Osmonalieva in Bishkek
No visitor to Altyn Kazyk, a shantytown on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital
Bishkek, can ignore the stinking smoke rising from piles of smouldering waste.
Residents say it floats over the settlement day and night, and it only takes
half-an-hour here to induce a strong headache.
This is not the only health hazard threatening the collection of small,
unpainted clay houses. There is a gas pipeline running along the edge of the
waste dump, a burial site for sick livestock and some of the homes are even
built on top of human graves.
But despite the harsh living conditions in Altyn Kazyk which means Golden
Tether, the Kyrgyz term for the North Star - locals are frightened that
municipal plans to tear down the shanty town will leave them worse off than
before. Residents are campaigning for their homes to be given legal status
before they are demolished, thus guaranteeing them compensation or a plot of
Nyshanbubu, 57, lives in a house consisting of two rooms occupied by her
extended family of seven her son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.
Like the majority of the 1,000 settlers here, Nyshanbubu came from the
impoverished south of Kyrgyzstan to seek work in the capital, located in the
more economically-developed north of the country.
It pains her to talk about the difficulties her family subsequently faced as
the money they earned was barely enough to cover rent and food. That is why
they have ended up here. We were tired of moving from one rented flat to
another, paying fifty dollars every month, she said.
When the land grab [by squatters] was going on, we decided to settle here. My
son built this house with his own hands. But heavy physical work has damaged
his health last year he had an operation and one of his kidneys was removed,
Nyshanbubus story was interrupted by the crying of her seven-month-old
grandchild, lying in a makeshift cot by her side. The crib was covered with a
worn-out blanket to protect him from the persistent flies, but to no avail.
Her daughter-in-law came out of the house to give him a bottle of milk, but he
threw it up. He had not been well for the last several days, the grandmother
As bad as things are, her family is better off than the homeless people who
live off the waste dump.
A neighbour who did not want to give her name explained how she and her family
narrowly escaped that fate three years ago, when houses close to the main road
were demolished to make way for a petrol station.
People were crying and begging [the workmen] not to touch their houses, she
recalled. To save our houses from destruction, we blocked the road and took
turns keeping vigil lighting fires at night and sitting on the ground with
arms linked during the day.
Now she fears that the part of the settlement closest to the waste dump
considered a high-risk zone is up for demolition.
Altyn Kazyk is one of several illegal settlements that appeared around Bishkek
following popular unrest in March 2005 when the then president Askar Akaev was
When President Kurmanbek Bakiev was elected in July the same year, and his
government issued a decree stating that land was to be handed out for private
and social housing. But the process was allegedly marred by corruption and was
not entirely successful, so people began illegally taking over plots of land to
build makeshift houses.
Tension is now mounting as residents feel they are under pressure from the
authorities to move out. The squatters want to be given official ownership
documents for their makeshift houses, despite the fact that they were built
They see obtaining ownership rights as the only way they will be able to force
the authorities to compensate them.
Kalicha Umuralieva, an independent expert on housing and co-author of
Kyrgyzstans current housing legislation, says the authorities have been
heavy-handed in evicting people from other squatter areas of the city.
People have been forcibly evicted with the help of the police, and at all the
press conferences the authorities have held, theyve said these areas were
needed to build multistorey social housing, she said.
These promises were not kept, claimed Umuralieva, Instead, luxury housing has
sprung up there. Landless and homeless people who wanted to acquire ownership
of the plots of lands [they occupied] continue to knock on the doors of
government agencies, moving from one rented accommodation to another and
sinking deeper into poverty.
The situation has been further complicated by inconsistencies in the
authorities approach to the squatters. In Altyn Kazyk, where squatters are
having difficulty claiming compensation, the land has little value due to the
various health hazards. But residents note that other illegal settlers living
on sought-after land in the southern suburbs did manage to get compensation.
Gulnur Abazbekova, who heads the department for the protection of ownership
rights in the office of Kyrgyzstans human rights ombudsman, says the
authorities have to take some of the blame. She believes that a mixture of
corruption and a lack of legal knowledge have contributed to the problems.
It was the unscrupulousness and incompetence of bureaucrats that led in the
end to the current deadlock, she said.
But when it comes to Altyn Kazyk, the position of Bishkeks city government is
clear. Deputy mayor Andrei Filatov, told IWPR that the dangers associated with
illegal settlements in hazardous areas mean that something has to be done
The decision cannot be postponed anymore, he said. Those houses that are
clearly in risk zones have to be demolished.
Filatov said that the city administration is weighing up various solutions for
the future of Altyn Kazyks residents, and should present proposals within a
According to Filatov, if residents have to be re-settled then they will get
plots of land in other areas, and compensation is also under consideration. But
at the same time, Filatov emphasised that all these houses were built illegally.
Residents are opposed to any demolitions until they know what exactly they will
be offered. They say mere proposals are not enough, and they fear the
authorities will not honour their promises.
Some time ago, the city authorities promised to make our land ownership legal,
yet now they are saying we cant live there, said one Altyn Kazyk resident.
Residents cite cases where settlers have got lucky and managed to gain legal
ownership of their homes.
But according to Filatov, it is difficult to apply the same principle to houses
near to hazardous sites.
No ones going to take responsibility for legalising settlements situated in
zones that are at risk, he said. God forbid theres an explosion on the gas
pipeline resulting in fatalities. Who would take responsibility for that?
Some residents are ready to relocate, such as a neighbour of Nyshanbubu who
stressed he would do so only on condition he was guaranteed a plot of land
elsewhere and a red book a document setting out his legal right to it.
Nyshanbubu herself says she could not afford to move out even if she were
offered another construction site.
Even if they give us a plot of land in another area, we dont have the
financial means or the moral or physical strength to build a new home. Were
not moving out of here, she said.
Asyl Osmonalieva is an IWPR-trained contributor in Kyrgyzstan.
TURKMEN PRESIDENT FAILS TO FULFIL INTERNET PLEDGE
Hopes for uncensored web access further threatened as international resource
By IWPR staff in Central Asia
Internet users in Turkmenistan have long complained that President Gurbanguly
Berdymuhammedov is failing to live up to pledges to allow unrestricted access
to the web, made when he took office two years ago.
Now they are also worried that with a number of internationally-funded projects
drawing to a close, they will no longer be able to use computer centres
previously provided by aid agencies.
In 2007, Berdymuhammedov vowed to remove tight internet controls imposed by his
predecessor, Saparmurat Niazov, who had also outlawed foreign newspapers, opera
and the circus.
Some 15 internet cafes were opened around the country, and the following year,
Berdymuhammedov announced that the internet should be made available in all
schools, even kindergartens. All new buildings would be equipped with modern
multmedia technology, he pledged.
Government institutions and agencies have set up their own websites, and new
buildings do contain provision for internet connections.
But observers say that in reality, the internet is by and large unavailable.
In universities and schools that have installed computers, some with web
access, teaching staff either forbid students to use the internet or restrict
them to a handful of designated sites.
A staff member at the Turkmen Academy of Sciences explained that when the
institution was wired up to the web last year, warnings were issued that if
anyone was caught visiting prohibited sites, all access would be cut off.
According to IWPR observers, prices at internet cafes have fallen in the last
two years, with the cost of one hours surfing now down to 50 US cents.
However, many people are reluctant to go to cyber cafes, where they have to
show their passports and put their signature in a special logbook. In addition,
any file they want to send has to be saved so that managers have a copy of all
attachments sent from private email accounts.
The authorities continue to block websites deemed to be undesirable, including
all those featuring the Turkmen opposition-in-exile, and also foreign news
sites like RFE/RL, the BBC, and the popular Russian site Centrasia.ru.
Ive never been able to open the Centrasia.ru or other sites where Id be able
to read the news about Turkmenistan and neighbouring states, said a journalist
in Ashgabat. You can check email or open [innocuous] sites, but it is
impossible to read about whats happening in the world. And Im not talking
about opposition sites here its obvious they are banned.
Curiously, internet connections tend to drop out on public holidays, perhaps
because the security service is concerned to keep things calm.
This happened on October 25-28, when Turkmenistan was celebrating its
The holiday is now over, but the internet is still down, said a woman in
Ashgabat who is unusual in having a dedicated line for web access at home. My
son called from abroad and said he wanted to Skype with me, but he couldnt get
through. Why are the authorities treating people in this manner?
A year ago, Berdymuhammedov criticised the monopoly internet provider
Turkmentelecom for the poor quality and low speed of connections. His remarks
may have given the green light for a second provider to enter the market, the
Russian company MTS. This has slightly eased waiting lists for people wishing
to install internet at home.
However, according to a Turkmentelecom employee, applications for internet
connections are still reviewed on a case-by-case basis, meaning that only
those applicants considered safe and reliable by the authorities are given
Installation costs about 200 dollars a price few people can afford. Those
with real wealth, and also international organisations operating in
Turkmenistan, prefer to use a satellite connection, which costs between 300 and
The high price of home access means many people use internet centres run by
international organisations, offering free access of about an hour a day per
The resource centres of the American organisation Counterpart International
were very popular for this reason. However, in mid-September, Counterpart
announced the successful completion of its current development programme. Local
observers say the groups computer centres have been closed since that time.
Another popular place for activists to use the web was at the United Nations
Development Programme, UNDP, offices in Ashgabat, which provided access twice a
week. Ten more computer centres were opened in the capital and around the
country as part of a UNDP-funded education programme. After closing temporarily
when the UNDP project ended, they have since reopened but are reportedly
Free internet access is currently available at a resource centre supported by
the US embassy in Ashgabat.
With hopes of generally-available internet access diminishing, users say this
is not enough to meet the demand.
The centre at the US embassy with its ten computers provides internet access
six days a week, but only for 30 minutes per person, and we have to wait in
line for a long time, said one activist.
The Ashgabat office of the IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board), a
US non-government group, provides four computers with internet access for
visitors. However, there are fears that this centre will be closed if and when
IREX projects come to an end.
Weve heard that IREX projects in Turkmenistan are going to go on only until
December, said one web user. What can we do about it?
When it comes to the resources centres set up by Counterpart, there is some
hope that they will continue to operate. A representative of the US
organisation in Ashgabat, who requested anonymity, said there were no plans to
close the centres and they were currently being restructured.
The centres are expected to continue providing services, via local partners,
said the representative.
Local internet users still say it is easier and safer for them to use resource
centres when they are run by international organisations.
It is very likely that once computer centres are handed over to them [local
organisations], they will try to dictate their own terms to visitors; and that
on the orders of the authorities, theyll monitor what sites we open, block
more and more sites and, most importantly, notify the relevant agencies, said
a local journalist.
Who will want to go to these centres in such a jumpy atmosphere?
(Names of interviewees withheld out of concern for their security.)
TAJIKS CLEAR THE AIR WITH MOSCOW
After months of turbulence in relations with Russia, the Tajik leader seems to
have smoothed things over and gained significant concessions.
By Daler Gufronov in Dushanbe
A recent summit between the Tajik and Russian leaders failed to touch on the
high-profile security matters flagged up beforehand. But analysts say that does
not really matter what Tajikistan really wanted, and got, from Moscow was
progress on investment pledges plus better treatment for Tajik migrants in
While no major agreements were signed while President Imomali Rahmon was in
Moscow on October 22-23, analysts say the point of his talks with Russian
counterpart Dmitry Medvedev was to smooth over various problems that have been
building over recent months. And in that regard, they say, it seems to have
been a success.
In a statement after their talks, Rahmonov and Medvedev said they had
instructed their governments to draft a plan for economic cooperation over the
next two years, to launch a gas exploration project in Tajikistan involving
Russian giant energy firm Gazprom, and to work together to protect the rights
of the Tajik migrant workforce.
They also resolved the issue of a 30 million US dollar debt owed by Tajikistan
for electricity provided by the Russian companies operating the Sangtuda-1
hydroelectric power station, launched in July.
Two issues that had been widely expected to feature in the discussions were not
mentioned at all, either in the statement or in remarks by the two leaders at a
joint press conference a request for Moscow to pay rent on the military
facilities it uses in Tajikistan, and ways of reviving the failed Russian
investment in the giant Roghun hydroelectric dam scheme.
Before the meeting, there were a number of media stories suggesting that
Dushanbe planned to ask the Russians to pay a substantial sum 300 million US
dollars, by one account for maintaining troops in this Central Asian state,
in the same way that the Americans have paid rent for airbases in neighbouring
Kyrgyzstan and, in the past, Uzbekistan.
The Russian 201st infantry division has been based in Tajikistan since the
Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The 5,000-strong force is headquartered in the
capital Dushanbe with other bases in Kulob and Qurghonteppa in the south. A
ten-year deal inked in 2004 stipulated that no rent would be paid. But some
Tajik officials have become annoyed by what they see as Moscows failure to
live up to energy-sector investment pledges made at the same time.
Russia said up to two billion dollars would be put into Tajikistan, principally
to complete work on the Roghun dam and build the smaller Sangtuda-1 power
station. The latter investment has been a success, with energy production
launched in July. But the Roghun deal subsequently fell apart over
disagreements about whether the Tajik state should be allowed to retain a
controlling stake in the business, and over the technical specifications of the
dam itself. In 2007, the Tajik government annulled the agreement.
This year has also seen more general diplomatic friction between Moscow and
The Tajiks reacted angrily in January when in an apparent departure from
earlier support for new hydroelectric schemes in Tajikistan, President Medvedev
appeared to side with Uzbekistan, which opposes them on environmental grounds.
After a meeting with Uzbek president Islam Karimov, Medvedev said Russian
investment in hydroelectric schemes in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan could only go
ahead if the interests of other Central Asian states were taken into account a
formula used by the Uzbeks, who fear that new dams will greatly reduce the flow
of water reaching their farming sector.
The Tajik foreign ministry responded swiftly with a diplomatic note expressing
astonishment at Medvedev words.
Arkady Dubnov, a Moscow-based journalist and veteran Central Asia-watcher, says
that despite the glaring absence of formal agreements signed at the
Rahmon-Medvedev talks, their meeting drew a line over recent disagreements.
In my view, the sole outcome from the visit but an important one will be
that the growing campaign where complaints of various kinds have been addressed
to Russia is called to a halt, Dubnov told IWPR.
The analyst believes Moscow offered the Tajiks this official visit, complete
with full honours, as an olive branch following the spat over the remarks
Medvedev made about energy when he was in Tashkent.
Abdughani Mamadazimov, who heads the National Association of Political
Scientists in Tajikistan, agreed that the presidents succeeded in clearing the
Meeting behind closed doors, the two sides managed to rid themselves of the
mutual recriminations and suspicions [that led to] a cooling in the bilateral
relationship, he said.
Statements made by Russian and Tajik officials following the visit gave a
better indication of what their respective governments current positions are
on the question of the military base.
Talking to journalists after the meeting, Russian defence minister Anatoly
Serdyukov said there were no problems concerning the Russian base.
In remarks quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency, he said the question of
payment would only arise when the current treaty expired in 2014.
Weve been looking at two options, either continuing to run the military base
as now, or on a fee-paying basis. It is too early to talk about figures, he
Addressing reporters in Dushanbe on October 26, Tajik foreign minister Hamrohon
Zarifi confirmed that the rent-free arrangement remained in force.
Russia and Tajikistan are making no demands and complaints to each other, he
added. This is about military and strategic cooperation.
Zarifi also indicated that the Russians were about to come back into the Roghun
An international consortium to complete construction work on this energy
scheme is to be set up shortly, he said. It will be open to any country, and
we know for sure that Russia intends to join it.
Dubnovs view is that the Tajik leadership really needs the Russian base as
much as Moscow does, as a guarantee of national security.
Its clear that Moscow is fairly well informed about the real state of affairs
in Tajikistan, and understands both the potential consequences of worsening
social tensions in the country and the stabilising role which the Russian
military base plays, he said.
Some Tajik analysts have noted that General David Petraeus, commander of US
Central Command which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, visited
Dushanbe on October 26, a few days after Rahmonovs trip to Moscow. They see
his trip as evidence that Washington is vying for the Tajiks attention as a
potential security partner in the region.
Dubnov takes such speculation with a pinch of salt.
The Americans are not as interested in having military bases in Tajikistan as
some in Dushanbe imagine, he said. Moreover, the Americans would never
intervene in a domestic military political conflict to protect the current
rulers of Tajikistan.
Dushanbe-based analyst Rashid Ghani Abdullo argues that the talk of rent
payments was a bargaining chip which Tajikistan wanted to extract concessions
in other areas.
This is more than likely an attempt to use this issue as a method for getting
Russia to move on strategically important hydroelectric projects, he said,
Daler Gufronov is a correspondent for the Asia Plus newspaper.
STRENGTHENING TOP-DOWN RULE IN KYRGYZSTAN
Reforms contain many retrograde steps and look like an attempt to bolster
By Pavel Dyatlenko in Bishkek
President Kurmanbek Bakiev has now made it abundantly clear how he thinks
Kyrgyzstan should be run by means of a gradual but unstoppable consolidation
of the power held by the executive, more specifically himself.
Bakiev detailed a plan for overhauling to the institutions of government in a
speech to officials on October 20. Many of the executive functions previously
held by the prime minister and his government including foreign affairs, the
national security agency, and oversight of economic reforms now go upstairs
to a greatly strengthened presidential office. One of the side benefits,
according to Bakiev, is that streamlining the system will allow numerous
government jobs to be cut at a time when the national budget is under severe
strain. (For details, see Kyrgyz Reforms Leave President Stronger, RCA No. 593,
Yet the basic ambition of centralising political power is not a new thing;
rather, it has been a constant feature of Bakievs five years in power.
The intention of his reforms is quite clearly to achieve a greater measure of
state control over society, not to develop Kyrgyz society; to strengthen the
vertical hierarchy of executive power the president, rather than achieve a
balance between the various branches of power; to narrow the space in which
politics takes place; and to sideline and ghettoise the opposition.
This course of action is intended to provide a stable future for Kyrgyzstans
current ruling elite, the idea being that this will allow a modernisation
process to be set in train, carefully managed and regulated from top down. If
that process is successful, President Bakiev could go down in history as a
Work on restructuring the institutions of government is only now getting into
gear. However, President Bakiev is already reaping the rewards in terms of
brushing up his image. The very announcement of the reform package was
something of a statement to the public that he was determined to live up to the
pledges he made while campaigning for re-election in July.
Another motive for underlining his commitment to serious action is to offset,
insofar as that is possible, the damage done by Kyrgyzstans mounting economic
crisis. His speech effectively cleared him of blame by showing that he was
already working hard to improve governance reform, while a government seen as
primarily culpable for past failings stepped down to clear the way for the
Cutting the number of public servants in government, and consequently slashing
spending in this area, can be seen as yet another step designed to increase
Bakievs popularity and show that the state or rather the president himself
is concerned for the national good at a difficult time.
How effective these steps will be is another matter, since a substantial
institutional restructuring coupled with the process of laying off civil
servants and finding other jobs for them is going to be a costly exercise,
especially when the state is so short of cash. Any real savings in expenditure
will be felt only in the longer term.
The net result of the governance reforms is to strengthen the president at the
expense of the prime minister. The new Presidential Institution includes the
foreign minister and the new post of state advisor for defence, security, and
law and order.
Another branch is the Central Agency for Development, Investment, and
Innovations, which will give Bakiev direct control over macroeconomic planning
and resource allocation seen as crucial not only to economic development but
also to ensuring political and social stability.
The agency is to be headed by Bakievs son Maxim. Under the right
circumstances, that could offer the younger Bakiev a springboard to stand for
election in 2014, creating a seamless transition of power from father to son.
(For more on the appointment, see Jobs for the Boys in Kyrgyzstan, RCA No. 594,
Having entered his second term, President Bakiev is not eligible to stand for a
third time and he has said publicly that he will not try to engineer a change
to the rules to allow him to do so. Now 32, Maxim Bakiev will have surpassed
the minimum age limit of 35 by the time the next election comes round. He has
five years to make his name in politics.
Meanwhile, the new prime minister, Daniyar Usenov, finds his powers severely
curtailed compared with those of his predecessor. The new cabinet is greatly
reduced, and several key agencies are transferred to the Presidential
Institution the foreign ministry, the National Security Service, the
financial police and the intellectual property agency.
Usenovs remaining ministries and departments are mostly headed either by the
previous incumbents or by people reshuffled from similar posts. There is no one
from the opposition. Even the newcomers are familiar faces from national- or
regional-level government, so none of these appointments is likely to rock the
If there is a change discernible in the new government, it is in favour of
younger technocrats in their thirties.
While the government is relegated to the role of mere implementer, President
Bakiev has filled the void by establishing what might best be termed
pseudo-institutions tied into his office.
Take for example the new Kurultay or Assembly which is supposed to offer a
platform for debate among a wide cross-section of society. In reality, its
members will be carefully selected, so that it becomes a superficial body which
is merely there to ingratiate the presidency with the public. Furthermore, as
an ostensibly elected assembly, it will undermine the already weak authority
and role of Kyrgyzstan parliament.
One of the most noteworthy features about the reforms to date has been the
complete absence of political parties from the process. That applies not only
to the opposition, but also to the presidents own Ak Jol party, which
None of the new government appointments is a senior party figure, and Ak Jols
role has been limited to lending its support to Usenov who has no party
affiliations himself when he was nominated for the post of prime minister.
The exclusion of parties shows how minimal a role they really play in the
current political system of Kyrgyzstan.
Pavel Dyatlenko is an expert at the Polis Asia Centre, a think-tank in Bishkek.
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