Amidst confusion over who runs the country, violent clashes resumed in Kyrgyzstan on October 9 over how to end the Central Asian country’s political crisis. Several shots were reportedly heard, and some people were wounded. Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has declared a state of emergency.
The conflict broke out after supporters of ex-parliamentarian Sadyr Japarov, who has claimed the post of prime minister, clashed in Bishkek’s downtown Ala-Too Square with supporters of ex-President Almazbek Atambaev, ex-Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov, and other opposition politicians, as well as civil activists and young people. The latter group had gathered to speak out against organized crime and to demand that the Kyrgyz parliament convene and elect a legitimate prime minister.
Screaming at each other, the two sides hurled stones and plastic bottles at their opponents. The pro-Japarov crowd ended up driving the earlier demonstrators out of Ala-Too Square.
Gunfire was also heard. In one video by the Kyrgyz outlet 24.kg, an unknown man fired a pistol at a car.
Later, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan member Kunduz Joldubaev posted on Facebook that this man had shot at ex-President Atambaev’s car, but Atambaev, the party’s former chairman, was not wounded. The Social Democrats consider this event to be an assassination attempt against the ex-Kyrgyz leader, who was sentenced to 11 years and two months in prison in 2019 on corruption charges. He claimed the charges were politically motivated.
In a video interview posted on Joldubaev’s Facebook page, Atambaev echoed the claims about an assassination attempt, alleging that President Jeenbekov, leaders of the State Committee for National Security, and controversial ex-customs official Raimbek Matraimov make up part of “one mafia.”
“They think they’ll get rid of Atambaev, and they (protesters) will all scatter. It’s not going to work out,” he said.
Local media reported that several people had received head wounds from stone projectiles, including opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party member Tilek Toktogaziev, a businessman whom some had supported as Kyrgyzstan’s new prime minister. He has been hospitalized in serious, but stable condition, according to Kaktus Media.
To restore some semblance of order, President Jeenbekov later commanded the army to bring troops and equipment into Bishkek to set up checkpoints. He also declared a state of emergency that will, among other measures, impose a military curfew in Bishkek; ban protests and other public events; exercise “control” over mass media “if they can be used to inflame the situation in Bishkek;” confine some unidentified individuals to their residences; and restrict and conduct spot checks on traffic.
The state of emergency went into effect at 8 p.m. local time on October 9 and will last until 8 a.m. on October 21.
Mass media during this period will be required to disseminate information from the official commandant of Bishkek, newly appointed Deputy Interior Minister Almazbek Orozaliev.
A power vacuum has existed for several days in Kyrgyzstan following protests against suspected fraud in the country’s October 4 parliamentary elections, and protesters’ takeover of government headquarters on October 5-6. The preliminary election results have been annulled, but the Central Election Commission has not yet announced a new election date.
After the October 6 resignation of Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov, accepted by President Jeenbekov on October 9, various politicians have attempted unsuccessfully to become prime minister and to head a temporary government. For now, though, current government members are expected to remain at their posts until a new government is formed.
Although he also has offered to resign, 61-year-old Sooronbai Jeenbekov is still president. But his location has been unknown since October 5-6, when protesters stormed the Kyrgyz government headquarters, known as the White House.
Jeenbekov’s press service states that the president is in Bishkek and has claimed he is holding talks with political parties. He alleges that no political party has proposed a way to bring all parties together to resolve the country’s growing political crisis.
In the meantime, Jeenbekov, as head of state, is prepared to sign orders about official government appointments, his office asserts. Nonetheless, since October 5-6, various opposition politicians have declared themselves to be interior minister, prosecutor general, and in charge of the State Committee on National Security (GKNB).
Parliament remains the only authorized branch of power apart from the president. However, its 120 deputies have proven unable to form a quorum to select a new premier and cabinet of ministers.
Adding to the confusion, the self-appointed deputy secretary of the GKNB, Omurbek Suvanaliev, announced at an October 8 meeting that his committee is, itself, the sole legitimate organ of power in Kyrgyzstan. In his words, the GKNB has taken оver all law enforcement to restore order and is carrying out “work” to ensure matters do not spiral out of control in southern Kyrgyzstan. He has called for the removal of other self-declared senior officials.
The former parliamentary deputy Sadyr Japarov, released from jail on October 5-6, where he had been serving time for an alleged kidnapping, also has pretensions to power. Japarov announced immediately after his release that he is prepared to head a new government, and on the evening of October 6, a clutch of parliamentary deputies in Bishkek’s Dostuk Hotel selected him as prime minister despite the fact that they did not have a quorum for such a decision.
Although nothing confirms this as yet, Japarov, whose supporters have been demonstrating regularly outside government headquarters, claims that he has begun to execute the functions of a prime minister.
But the opposition parties that did not overcome the 7-percent barrier to enter parliament in the annulled elections do not recognize Sadyr Japarov as prime minister. The leaders of these 12 parties have named their own candidate for the post of prime minister, Tilek Toktogaziev.
But Toktogaziev’s candidacy does not suit everyone. He is speaking out against figures in major corruption scandals, such as Raimbek Matraimov, who has been linked to an international money-laundering scheme, from returning to politics. Matraimov’s family backs the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (My Homeland Kyrgyzstan) party, which received roughly a quarter of the October 4 vote, according to later annulled preliminary results.
Still another band of opposition parties has called for 50-year-old Omurbek Babanov, who served as prime minister from 2011 to 2012 under ex-President Atambaev, to become prime minister.
Made up of the Respublika, Reforma, Bir Bol (Unite), and Ata Meken parties, this group calls itself Akyrky Umut, or Last Hope.
Such councils have multiplied almost as quickly as would-be prime ministers.
Immediately after the events of October 5-6, 2020, a Coordination Council of opposition politicians was created, allegedly to help political groups “take decisions within the framework of the constitution,” according to Council leader Adakhan Madumarov, head of the Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan) party.
Following the ongoing trend in Kyrgyz politics, however, a second such body, called the People’s Coordination Council, also has been formed.
Still others have been reported to exist.
Meanwhile, the government, at least until President Jeenbekov’s October 9 acceptance of Prime Minister Boronov’s resignation, supposedly has continued to work in some fashion. The government’s press service earlier announced a videoconference of the cabinet, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Erkin Arsandiev.
Human-rights defenders, activists, artists, and vigilantes complete this political jigsaw puzzle. For the most part, they do not recognize any of the self-appointed officials and demand the resignation of President Jeenbekov and an emergency session of parliament. They want parliament alone, according to the Kyrgyz constitution, to choose a prime minister who would suit all of Kyrgyzstan’s political players.
That, however, is no longer a straightforward task.