Kyrgyz Opposition Strives To Boost Legitimacy
By Jean-Christophe Peuch
Bishkek, 25 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- As the dust is settling on Bishkek, opposition leaders are striving to restore political stability and public order in the Kyrgyz capital.
Just hours after protesters stormed the government headquarters -- known as the "White House" among Kyrgyz -- members of the outgoing legislature met in an emergency session with representatives of the opposition to debate urgent steps to fill the power vacuum that resulted from the street upheaval.
Shortly before the emergency meeting, the Supreme Court had nullified the results of the two disputed rounds of legislative elections on 27 February and 13 March, thus automatically restoring the mandate of the outgoing parliament pending new polls.
The lower house of parliament named Ishenbai Kadyrbekov parliamentary speaker. The upper house appointed Kurmanbek Bakiev as prime minister. Bakiev automatically becomes interim president in the absence of ousted President Askar Akaev.
Bakiev is now trying to constitute a provisional government.
The assembly also voted to entrust Feliks Kulov -- a prominent opposition leader who had been released from prison a few hours earlier -- with the responsibility of overseeing the country's law enforcement agencies and armed forces.
Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev handed over his resignation shortly after yesterday's events. As for Akaev, his whereabouts remained unknown as of today.
Talking to RFE/RL in parliament last night, Kulov insisted that Akaev should appear before the nation and officially state that he is stepping down.
"I talked on national television [on Thursday] and said we would guarantee [Akaev] all possible safety because the transfer of power should be legitimate, constitutional. Those leaders that will assume power tomorrow must have legitimacy, this is very important. I am categorically against the idea that the future leadership [of our country] should be associated with violence. Therefore, our task is to make sure that power is transferred peacefully," Kulov said.
But Akaev says he has not resigned and is accusing the opposition of carrying out an anti-constitutional coup. Akaev, who says he has temporarily left Kyrgyzstan, reportedly made the remarks in a statement sent to the Kyrgyz news agency Kabar. Unconfirmed reports say Akayev fled to Kazakhstan yesterday but has now left that country. Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that Akayev is welcome to stay in Russia if he wants to do so.
Judge Marat Kaipov is a member of Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court. In an interview with RFE/RL today, he said the fact that Akaev has not yet handed over his resignation left the country's new rulers facing a problem of legitimacy, if only to organize new presidential elections.
"Our president shamelessly left the country without [officially] announcing his resignation. And the fact that he did not hand over his resignation is creating a legal problem. First of all we must solve the problem of the president's fate, the question of his resignation. There are reports that he resigned. Other reports say he did not resign. This question, I believe, must be solved within the next few days. The representatives of the opposition must agree with him on possible guarantees for his security. It has already happened that in some countries the head of state has left without resigning. But we can't possibly leave the country without a ruler," Kaipov said.
Kaipov said a possible way out could be for parliament to impeach Akaev.
"There is a constitutional procedure to impeach the president. It is up to the majority of deputies to put this question on the agenda [now]," Kaipov said.
Kaipov, however, said he considered yesterday's decision by the outgoing legislature to name an interim president perfectly legal.
Another major concern for Kyrgyzstan's new authorities is to restore public order in Bishkek.
Looters overnight assaulted a number of stores and supermarkets, including those belonging to Akaev's elder son Aidar. Defying security cordons hastily dispatched by the new authorities, plunderers also managed to ransack the White House late into the night yesterday.
In comments broadcast on national television today, Kulov said a few looters had been arrested overnight and promised they would be prosecuted.
He also urged Bishkek residents to help the country's police forces restore public order.
"I place my hopes only in our citizens. I ordered that [representatives of] society should be included in the ranks of our police and that popular militias which care for stability, order, our honor, and name, be [attached] to each Interior Ministry unit. I call upon you, my dear friends. Enroll in these volunteer popular units right in your places of residence," Kulov said.
Kulov also asked parents not to let their children join the crowds that rampaged throughout Bishkek overnight, forcing many shopkeepers to remain closed after daybreak.
The situation was reported calm today.
(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service assisted in this report)
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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