S ource: Itar
Kyrgyzstan is to be led by a new president, well-known for his political flexibility and a focus on Russia. The main problem he will have to address is that of ending inter-regional and inter-ethnic stand-off in the country that in the past resulted in many inter-ethnic conflicts.
Kyrgyzstan’s new president, elected last Sunday, is Prime Minister Atambayev. He collected 62.88% of the votes, the runner-up was state secretary Adakhan Madumarov (14.91% of the votes), and number three was the leader of the parliamentary party Ata-Jurt, Kamchybek Tashiyev (14.43% of the votes).
The latest presidential election was the first since the April 2010 coup d’état. After President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who himself came to power as a result of the Tulip Revolution of 2005 and the overthrow of the country’s first president, Askar Akayev, faced with protesters’ pressure, was forced to resign and flee, and the country had no full-fledged president for a long time. First, there was a “provisional government,” which actually took over the powers of the highest authorities, then there followed an “interim president,” Roza Otunbayeva. Otunbayeva remained “president only for a period of transition.” She was obliged to stay away from the election.
Atambayev entered the world of politics back in the 1990s, along with business activity. He was the founder of the Social-Democratic Party, spent some time working in the Parliament. Atambayev took part in the Tulip Revolution of 2005. In the new government he was minister of industry, but failed to get along with Kurmanbek Bakiyev: six months after his appointment he resigned after accusing the new president of patronage of crime.
Atambayev showed miracles of political flexibility. First, the former minister was involved in opposition rallies, where he called Bakiyev as a “criminal and political corpse.” But in the spring of 2007 he suddenly changed sides: at the invitation of Bakiyev he returned into the government, this time as its prime minister. The opposition then slammed Atambayev’s decision as ‘treason.’
When the opposition was defeated, the former opposition leader was no longer wanted as the head of government, and at the end of 2007 he was dismissed. After that he was back to the ranks of Bakiyev’s opponents, he even ran for president in 2009 as a “single opposition candidate.” In 2010 he was one of the leaders of the movement that toppled Bakiyev. The new “revolution” allowed Atambayev to return to power.
Experts point out that the biggest challenge facing the new president will be the inter-regional and inter-ethnic conflict in the republic, which periodically sparks the fear of the country’s split. After the coup d’etat in 2010 Osh and Jalalabad in the south saw bloody ethnic clashes between ethnic Kyrgyzes and Uzbeks, which left about 500 people killed and thousands injured. Nearly half a million people fled their homes.
The regional factor plays a key role in Kyrgyz politics. The first president, Askar Akayev, was a native of the north, and after the coup in 2005 power went to southerner Bakiyev. In the latest election, Atambayev was the only real candidate from the north of the country. His main competitors – southerners Tashiyev and Madumarov – failed to agree on nominating a single candidate from the south.
The south, where the elections were accompanied by numerous violations, is unhappy, of course. Tashiyev and Madumarov have already stated that they do not recognize the election returns and demanded their revision. One of them has already warned that otherwise the authorities would be “punished” by the Kyrgyz people.
The first protest demonstrations in support of the demand for the revision of the voting results were held in the regional centers of Osh and Jalalabad. So far, the protesting crowds have been small. But a representative of Tashiyev’s election team has promised that if the demands of the protesters are not fulfilled, there will begin an open-ended rally.
The protests, however, may be perceived as an attempt by the losers to raise the stakes in bargaining with the winner. As political scientist Nur Omarov, quoted by Lenta.ru, has suggested, the negotiations between the new president and his opponents will be carried out within the next few months. “Talks will be conducted with the unsuccessful opponents over the terms of including them in the government and other branches of government,” the expert believes. “So we shall soon see many loser candidates take official positions.”
“From the formal point of view Atambayev’s edge over the opponents is enough not to include them in the government, but it will be difficult for him to be a national leader in a fragmented country and keeping representatives of the South outside his team will be impossible,” Vedomosti quotes Ajdar Kurtov, of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, as saying.
The new president has repeatedly presented himself as a Russia-oriented politician. He announced Kyrgyzstan’s entry into the Customs Union, he promised to secure the withdrawal of the American base from the country in 2014, he has spoken of the need for closer economic relations with Russia, which temporarily employs about 500,000 citizens of Kyrgyzstan.
The question, though, is how the plan for closer relations with Russia will be implemented. Former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, in his time, too, liked to talk about partnership with Russia. Then, the Kyrgyz side began to break promises. As a result, by the end of his reign, Bakiyev turned almost into an enemy of Moscow, which quickly recognized those who overthrew him.
“Russian-Kyrgyz relations after Atambayev’s victory will become more active,” the Russian edition of Forbes magazine quotes an expert at the Center for the Studies of Central Asia and the Caucasus at the Institute of Oriental Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Stanislav Pritchin, as saying. “The fact is the next president is considered one of the most pro-Russian politicians in the country.”
Now, that a Kyrgyz politician who is easy to negotiate with and familiar to Russian political circles is to come to power, projects may be unfrozen for providing financial assistance to Kyrgyzstan through the Eurasian Economic Community, the actual process of Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Customs Union may be started and the implementation launched of the previously announced numerous joint projects in the energy sphere. Moreover, the analyst believes all this can be part of a strategy of creating a Eurasian Union.
Atambayev’s victory in the presidential election in Kyrgyzstan may help Kyrgyzstan get a loan from the EurAsEC anti-crisis fund, says Izvestia. As political scientists believe, this is precisely what Russia has waited for to approve the transfer of 106.7 million dollars.
A confirmation of this has come from a source in the Russian government, who said that it was acting Prime Minister Atambayev who had addressed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in writing to accelerate the disbursement of funds. The head of the Russian government gave the relevant instructions to the Ministry of Finance. Sources in the government of Kyrgyzstan said on the condition of anonymity that the loan was expected before the end of the year. At a time when Kyrgyzstan is trying to borrow everyone who is willing to lend Russia cannot lag behind, given its political and military interests in the region.