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Politics - 2006-2010

Post-Akayev era

Opposition groups held a series of demonstrations in 2006, including the entire first week of November, to protest the lack of progress on reform, in particular of the constitution, promised by President Bakiyev in 2005. The Kyrgyz parliament adopted amendments to the constitution which President Bakiyev then ratified on November 9, 2006, limiting the powers of the president and increased the role of parliament. After the government resigned on December 19, the Kyrgyz parliament voted on December 30 to adopt new amendments restoring some of the presidential powers lost in November. President Bakiyev signed the changes into law January 15, 2007.

In March 2007, President Bakiyev appointed opposition leader Almaz Atambayev as Prime Minister. A week-long opposition protest in April 2007 ended when police cleared the main Ala-Too Square in Bishkek.

In September 2007, the Constitutional Court invalidated the November 2006 and December 2006 versions of the constitution. President Bakiyev then called a snap national referendum on a new version of the constitution, which strengthened the powers of the president and provided for a parliament elected by party lists. The new constitution was approved in an October 2007 referendum that was marked by serious irregularities, including massive inflation of turnout figures. President Bakiyev then dissolved the parliament, calling for new elections. The December 2007 elections were deeply flawed, with the new pro-presidential Ak Jol party gaining 71 out of 90 seats. The largest opposition party, Ata Meken, did not gain any seats, despite probably receiving enough votes to meet the regional thresholds required to enter parliament. Following the elections, a new government was formed, headed by the former energy minister, Igor Chudinov, as Prime Minister.

In February 2009, president Bakiyev met with Russian president Medvedev in Moscow, and afterwards the former announced that Russia would provide Kyrgyzstan with $2.15 billion in aid and loans and that the U.S. Manas airbase would be shut down. While both Bakiyev and Medvedev denied any connection between the two events, many observers strongly suspected that Russia was behind the closure, as it seeks to reduce the U.S. presence in the region and reassert its hegemony over the former Soviet Union. The Kyrgyzstan government claimed that the base was unwanted for several other reasons, including environmental and noise pollution from the U.S. planes, disputes over the rent amount the U.S. should pay for the facility, and lingering anger over a 2006 incident in which a U.S. airman shot to death a Kyrgyz man who was supposedly trying to cross a checkpoint into the base with a knife. In spite of strong American diplomatic efforts to keep the base open, a bill to close the base was passed by the Kyrgyz legislature and was signed into law by president Bakiyev on February 20.

On 23 July 2009, 79 percent of the 2.3 million registered voters cast presidential ballots, resulting in the reelection of Kurmanbek Bakiyev for a second presidential term. According to the Central Election Commission, Bakiyev received 76 percent of the vote, and the opposition front-runner, Almaz Atambayev of the United People's Movement (UPM), received approximately 8 percent. Local and international independent observers concluded that the election failed to meet many of the country's international commitments and was marred by widespread ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, and misuse of government resources. On the day of the election and for several weeks afterward, citizens gathered and marched to protest the election results and electoral fraud. Authorities arrested hundreds of protesters and fined or sentenced them to short prison terms.

Akayev's rule was characterized by largely unfulfilled promises to reform the political system and in fact by reversals of democratization. Since the end of the Cold War, Kyrgyzstan was generally considered to be the freest country in Central Asia, politically and economically.

By 07 April 2010 the political opposition in Kyrgyzstan said it has seized power, after a day of clashes in several cities that killed at least 40 people and wounded more than 400. Opposition leaders said they were forming a provisional government with former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva as its head. They said the current prime minister, Daniyar Usenov, had agreed to resign, but there was no immediate confirmation of the opposition's claims. The whereabouts of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev were not known.



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