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Kyrgyzstan nationwide protests
by Amin George Forji
2006-11-12 09:12:32
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Kyrgyzstan has been in political chaos since last Thursday, following angry nationwide protests demanding the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his government, although the country has long been disgruntled against its government. It was Bakiyev's announcement to postpone the proposed constitutional reforms that served as final straw for the population.

In reaction, approximately 15,000 protesters gathered in the capital city, Bishkek, with opposition leaders, who addressed the crowds variously calling on the curbing of presidential powers, in favour of broader authority to parliament, and the resignation of the country's current authorities as a prelude to addressing the prevailing painful problems, notably economic crises and insecurity.

The protests aggravated since Friday, with the country's Prime Minister Felix Kulov telling parliament that the government was in possession of recorded evidence of an opposition conspiracy to overthrow the government by seizing key state institutions, whereupon, a criminal investigation was immediately launched. The opposition later dismissed the allegations as baseless and provocative.

The demonstrations continued unabated throughout the weekend, with many protesters setting up tents, saying they will not quit the streets before the government resigns. With the situation quickly escalating, the government announced concessions, and promised to present a draft constitution to parliament on Monday. However, he failed to show up on Monday as promised, but sent suggestions on some amendments for parliament to deliberate on.

Almost half of the 75 member legislatives boycotting parliament to sympathise with the opposition, only 39 MPs were in place to deliberate on any draft, a number short of the quorum to pass a valid bill. With the crisis moving into its fifth consecutive day, Bakiyev has had no other choice but to listen to the opposition leaders. He issued a statement on Monday promising to meet the opposition political party leaders for discussion on the current crises. Earlier in the day, he sacked Interior minister Osmonaly Guronov, replacing him with Omurbek Seuvanaliyev.

The move has done very little to quench the thirst of the opposition. In fact 34 opposition MPs sat back overnight in an emergency session, and early Tuesday adopted and signed what they now call the "new constitution", which sizeably strips the president of his powers, making the PM, the veritable head of government, and to emanate from the parliamentary majority. However, that number also falls short of the required two-third quorum to have the bill passed into law.

They have given the other MPs until noon on Tueday to add their signatures to the document. It is not yet clear what they plan to do, should any other MP fail to circumscribe. Under Kyrgyzstan's law, for a bill to be valid, it must have been approved by 51 MPs, and only becomes law after a three months review by the country's constitutional court. The opposition say they will need just four to six more signatures, and that the rule of 51 required approvals does not necessary apply here because of the emergency of the situation.

Bakiyev came to power in 2005, following a popular national uprising, known as the Kyrgyzstan revolution, to uproot Askar Akayev, the country's former long-time ruler. Bakiyev best understands that no political protest in Kyrgyzstan can be taken for granted and he has been considered by the protagonists of the 2005 revolution to be a total failure, and his regime has been marred by economic stagnation and insecurity.

The promise of a new constitution empowering parliament and curtailing some presidential powers was one of the key manifestos of Bakiyev that enabled him to win the presidential race in July 2005. A little over one year later, his own failed promises have come back to haunt him. Will he survive? Let's wait and see.

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