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RIA Novosti

MOSCOW-BISHKEK. (RIA Novosti commentator Pyotr Goncharov).

The opposition is not ruling out that the "protest potential" amassed in Kyrgyzstan may rear its head soon in the north of the republic, which has until now been considered to be fairly stable. Nor does the opposition intend to leave incumbent president Askar Akayev in office until the end of his term. At least that is the message contained in an interview with Muratbek Imanaliyev, the leader of an opposition bloc.

Question: How great is the danger that disturbances and the deteriorating situation in southern Kyrgyzstan will spread to other regions of the republic?

A: The confrontation between authorities and some of the opposition in the south of the republic has exceeded the bounds of the law.

As far as the political aspect of the problem is concerned, any normal dialogue between the authorities and opposition is virtually out of the question now. The few and very limited possibilities remaining for the start of such a dialogue may be lost within two to three days, triggering an irreversible process whose consequences are impossible to predict.

In humanitarian terms, the protest potential of society declines as you go from the south to the north. But even the north of the republic is fairly agitated and a number of problems have emerged that the authorities and the opposition need to solve together as long as they can do it. This is why I am in favor of an immediate dialogue between president and opposition, but whether or not it takes place is a big question.

Q: What is the population demanding in the south of the republic?

A: Developments in the south have demonstrated that the protest sentiments following the elections are giving way to demands for the president's immediate resignation. It is hard to say whether or not these demands will be satisfied. I don't think, Akayev will make any concessions, but will try to solve the problem with strong-arm methods, combining them with political measures.

Q: Two years ago, Akayev, not without pride, described Kyrgyzstan as an "island of democracy". Was he exaggerating?

A: The moves by the president and the authorities in general show that democracy in the republic now faces great difficulties. And it would be an exaggeration now to say that Kyrgyzstan remains that same "island of democracy". At any rate, the events in the south of the republic cannot be called democratic - that was something else. Now it is already difficult to second-guess what will happen, because the current political climate is so unstable and non-constructive that any incidental factor may prove decisive.

Q: The opposition is demanding a dialogue with the president. What do you think the substance of this dialogue will be?

A: The dialogue should deal with three essential points. First: the need for the sides (authorities and opposition) to undeviatingly uphold the republic's constitution.

Second, the legal terms for the president to step down as head of state need to be raised.

And third, which is very important for the republic at the moment, who may assume office in this situation?

Our movement champions a coalition leadership for a period, possibly consisting of five members representing the opposition and, if possible (I want to emphasize this particularly), the authorities. Then this triumvirate or any other form of leadership should specify deadlines and ways to elect a president. I would like this to happen as it is generally done, as is accepted in civilized countries, in accordance with the constitution, and in line with parliamentary resolutions.

Q: Is a compromise possible?

A: Unfortunately, the time for compromises is gone. Now a possible compromise would only envisage Akayev leaving power in an appropriate manner.

Q: How constitutional are the demands for the president's early resignation and holding early parliamentary elections?

A: To my mind, the authorities were the first to abandon the constitutional playing field, thus pushing the opposition to such radical demands. Today, these are the requirements not only of the opposition, but also of the majority of the people and greater proportion of our society. These demands are easy to explain and understand and completely correspond to the fact that there is no longer a legal code in the republic. The constitution as the main regulator of relations, in this case between people and authorities, is totally ineffective today. This is a very serious situation, and it concerns not only the south, as the authorities would like us to believe. The sufficiently high protest potential amassed in society may also soon erupt in the north.

Muratbek Imanaliyev was foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan in 1991-1992 and in 1997-2002. He is now the leader of the opposition movement Zhany Bagyt (New Direction).

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