Kyrgyzstan Updates 03.08-03.09

by Nathan Hamm on 3/8/2005 · 5 comments

Visit here for the latest on the situation in Kyrgyzstan

Summary: RFE/RL on the wait for round two and the protests in the south; Peace Corps Volunteers remark on the situation; Ferghana.ru on the Jalalabad protest; a new youth organization; and, reports from AKIpress.

Ben has updated his map.

RFE/RL’s Daniel Kimmage covers the wait for round two. [The posters in the picture with the story are in support of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service. The one on the left says “We want to know.”] It’s important to highlight that an emergency session of parliament has not been called yet. That’s one of the benefits of Kimmage’s reports–they offer excellent opportunity to look back and correct the cut corners.

The opposition’s mounting calls for an emergency session of parliament and preterm presidential elections raise the question of selecting a single candidate to carry the opposition’s flag. They also raise the prospect of a direct confrontation with the authorities, especially if the initiative is blocked and mass protests emerge as the opposition’s only recourse. What is increasingly clear is that even as Kyrgyzstan prepares for parliamentary runoffs on 13 March, the real struggle is, as Ambassador Karipkulov suggested, over the man who comes after the president.

Quite a word of the day from that story. Fissiparous. And on the theme of fissiparousness…

Continued in the extended entry.

EurasiaNet’s summary of recent events says that Akayev benefits from opposition disunity. My feeling is that the opposition is better described as not coordinating their actions nationally and I get the sense that they are slowly but noticeably becoming more united. (Laurence mentioned the story here)

“The situation in Kyrgyzstan is quite fluid,” said Fiona Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. “For now, Akayev and the government have the advantage, rather than complete control.”

In an effort to blunt the opposition’s momentum, Akayev administration officials have stuck to a long-standing theme, characterizing government critics as reckless and bent on sowing disorder. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. “All their actions are [aimed at stirring up] provocation and conflict,” said presidential spokesman Abdil Segizbayev during a March 7 news conference. Earlier, Akayev’s deputy chief of staff, Bolot Januzakov, portrayed the protest leaders as political malcontents who were upset that they didn’t win parliamentary seats. “Losers should accept defeat and leave gracefully,” Januzakov said.

Officials have utilized their near-monopoly on mass media to carefully craft their message and convey it to the Kyrgyz public. In doing so, they have taken advantage of their opponents’ lack of unity. For instance, state-controlled television outlets have repeatedly broadcast Asanov’s ultra-radical appeal for rebellion in attempting to discredit the opposition. At the same time, authorities have largely succeeded in silencing media outlets that can offer alternative points of view.

The existing confusion in the opposition camp is underscored by the inability of various groups to settle on a unified leader that could stand in contrast to Akayev. Opposition personalities, including Bakiyev and Otunbayeva, along with the jailed Feliks Kulov, all appear reluctant to set their own personal political ambitions aside.

As for that last point, well, I don’t think we’re exactly at that point yet. They all do seem fairly ambitious, but I think this is a bridge that will be crossed when the time comes. It very well could end up that they run against each other and that’s not terribly tragic even if it does help politicians aligned with Akayev. It’s not set down anywhere that democracy has to involve two candidates running against each other. They’ll either throw in their lot together or not–what’s most important is a clean election without heavy-handed government interference.

A couple Peace Corps bloggers in Kyrgyzstan have a small handful of posts on the situation in the south. Sean Brown lives in the Jalalabad province and had this to say:

After a few hours of peaceful protesting, things escalated and the mob began to force their way into the governor’s compound. Someone climbed the ten foot tall fence and managed to get the electric gate open. Police, being helplessly outnumbered could do nothing to stop them as they began to push their way into the offices. This is what I and few other volunteers witnessed on our way out of the city. PC called us the next day to report that protesters in fact did make their way into the governors office and rumors said that they also stormed his house and that he and his family were forced to flee. How much of that last part is actually true is questionable, but it shows that obviously the people here are starting to really question their leaders and are not afraid to show it. Don’t misunderstand, however. Things aren’t chaotic here and I’m not at all worried about my safety. No one was hurt during the protest and the PC is really on top of things when it comes to volunteer safety. Frankly, I’m kind of excited about the whole thing. These protests are coming on the wake of last Sundays deputy (congressional) elections and they show that come October, when presidential elections are held, we are going to see an interesting show.

Tim Forbes serves with an NGO in Jalalabad itself and heard the protesters from work, just a block away:

Protestors draped pink banners out of the second story window of the building calling for Akaev’s removal from office. Others wore pink arm bands and scarfs, in obvious reference to recent events in Georgia and the Ukraine.

The demonstration was peaceful and there were no reports of injuries. Damage inside the building was said to be confined to tables and chairs used to forcibly enter locked doors.

The demonstrators, all middle aged or older from various areas around Jalalabat oblast, remained in the governor’s office overnight. On Saturday morning, approximately 50 – 100 students took to the streets, chanting and carrying a pink banner which demanded “Elections without Akaev”.


Photo credit: Ferghana.ru

RFE/RL reports that the southern protests are growing and that the Naryn protests are still underway. They also mention that the protesters are repeating tactics from 2002.

The demonstrations in Kyrgyzstan started haphazardly but are gradually becoming more organized. Opposition groups like the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan and the Ata-Jurt movement have sent representatives to areas where protests are under way. The degree of coordination between these areas is still unclear.

But hanging over all these events is the memory of the March 2002 tragedy in the Aksy district of Jalal-Abad Oblast. Thousands of people demonstrated in support of a jailed opposition member of parliament. Police fired on the crowd, killing at least five people.

In the days that followed, Kyrgyzstan first saw the tactic of blocking key roads. This proved a particularly effective means of protest in a country that is more than 90 percent mountainous. These protests eventually brought down the government and gave the people a new sense of strength. They are testing this strength again now.

Ferghana.ru has a report and pictures (in Russian) from the Jalalabad and Uzgen protests. The report mentions that among the protesters are many Uzbeks (there are many in this part of Kyrgyzstan). You can find a machine translation of the article here. Ferghana.ru now has their own translation).

There’s another youth movement out there–Birge.

UDPATES:

AKIpress stories from the Kyrgyz elections mailing list:

A citizen of Uzbekistan won in Kyrgyz parliamentary elections

Abdumalip Hakimov, from party “Alga Kyrgyzstan!” won in first round of Kyrgyz Parliamentary elections is the citizen of Uzbekistan, The representative of Central Elections Commission Abdraimov told AKIpress today. “At registration Hakimov showed the passport of the citizen of
Kyrgyzstan. And then it was found out that he is the citizen of Uzbekistan, instead of Kyrgyzstan. Now a working group left for that constituency for investigation,” – Abdraimov said.

The CEC representative refused to answer the question whether the results of elections in this constituency will be cancelled.

The coalition “For democracy and civil society” about results of voting

The leader of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, E. Baisalov, declared today that the Coalition has concluded that the parliamentary elections were satisfactory. They carried out parallel calculating of votes based on copies of official ballots, and recognize all results published by the CEC as accurate.

However, the complete estimation of the process by the Coalition was not fair and honest based on circumstances during the pre-election period.

“The following circumstances were unlawful including the cancellation of registration of some candidates, closing of the radio station “Azattyk,” persecution of free press and restriction of freedom of assemblies and meetings,” – Baisalov said.

The coalition considers that admitted infringements during voting should be investigated, as their scale disrupts the results of voting. In particular, the Coalition noted some infringements in districts, such as the misc alculation of votes and ballots, incorrect creation of candidate lists, and artificial restrictions of voting procedures.

Kyrgyz Authorities Demand Investigation of the Mass Media Support Center by its Board of Trustees

The first deputy head of President’s Administration, B.Januzakov, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, A.Aitmatov, have written a message to Mrs. Jennifer Windsor, the Executive Director of Freedom House and the Board of Trustees of the Mass Media Support Center (MSC) Fund calling an urgent meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Fund.

The letter contains the reaction of Kyrgyz authorities to Freedom House’s press release from February 23 about the cut off of the electrical in the printing house of the MSC in Bishkek. The Freedom House statement accuses official authorities of prosecution of freedom of speech, and the creation of obstacles to the democratization of the country.

Both state officials declared that the cut off of electric supply to the printing press is not linked to the accusations made by Freedom House. They repeated their stance that the situation occurred due to the lack of necessary documents at the printin g house. house.

In the statement, the officials claim that these widely spread accusations calls the democratic image of Kyrgzstan into question, an throws a shadow on the typical atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding between the Kyrgyz government and Freedom House. It is expected that the meeting called for by the authorities will clear up the situation surrounding this case.


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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

Ben March 9, 2005 at 10:29 am

I just read (http://www.rferl.org/newsline/2-tca.asp) that “40 legislators now support the opposition’s initiative to hold an emergency session of parliament on 10 March”.

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