Tags: Kyrgyzstan | Rival | Parliaments | Vie | for | Power

Kyrgyzstan Rival Parliaments Vie for Power

Sunday, 27 March 2005 12:00 AM

Some fear the split — and the competing parliaments — could fuel simmering tension and plunge the shaken Central Asian country into deeper turmoil.

Both groups — the parliament newly elected in a disputed vote that sparked massive discontent, and the one that lost the election — met in separate chambers over the weekend, each claiming to represent the people.

Felix Kulov, a former opposition leader who was freed from jail Thursday, warned lawmakers in the old parliament — led by his own allies — that they should step down.

"The new parliament is legitimate and the old parliament's term has expired," said Kulov, who has been placed in charge of law enforcement agencies. He warned the former parliament that "if you get people out, I will take measures to arrest you."

Kulov later apologized when Prosecutor-General Azim Beknazarov challenged him, saying: "These are the people who freed you, will you arrest them?"

"I am too tired. I apologize for that," Kulov said.

The disputed elections led to the upswell of protests in this ex-Soviet republic, which culminated in Thursday's storming of the presidential and government headquarters. Akayev fled the country and took refuge in Russia, while the former parliament reclaimed its expired mandate and quickly named a new interim leader — former opposition party leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The split among the new leadership may reflect the deep divisions between north and south Kyrgyzstan. Kulov is from the north, whereas most of the opposition leaders are from the south.

Beknazarov, the prosecutor general who is closely allied with Bakiyev, conceded that the new parliament — dominated by Akayev's allies — would now have to be officially recognized. But he cautioned that decisions taken by the former parliament were still valid, apparently ruling out any challenge to Bakiyev.

The acting leader has yet to comment on the dispute.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has offered to help resolve the dispute between the two parliaments. The organization, Europe's leading security body, had sent international observers to monitor the disputed elections, and its criticism of the vote helped fuel the then-opposition's complaints.

On the streets of the capital, the mass disorder that followed Akayev's ouster appeared to have subsided, with police and volunteers wearing red armbands claiming success after a relatively quiet night in their fight against the looting that left Bishkek's main street a line of boarded up and shuttered stores.

On Sunday, a duty officer at the Interior Ministry's press office said there were still reports of thefts, but "none of the mass disorder." The officer declined to give his name.

In one Bishkek region alone, five cars were stolen, an unprecedented number, police said. Interior Ministry officers suspect the cars were stolen by looters eager to take their booty home.

The previous night, police arrested 129 people in overnight confrontations, and reports varied between one and three people described as "pillagers" killed.

Meanwhile, there was no sign that Akayev had resigned and on Sunday, about 700 of his supporters met in his hometown of Kemin, about 50 miles east of Bishkek, and said they don't recognize Bakiyev as leader. After the meeting broke up, about 150 blocked the main road to the capital in protest before dispersing peacefully.

Akayev's departure made Kyrgyzstan the third former Soviet republic in the past 18 months — after Georgia and Ukraine — to see long-entrenched governments widely accused of corruption fall amid mass protests.

The 60-year-old Akayev had led Kyrgyzstan since 1990, before it gained independence in the Soviet collapse. He was long considered the most democratic leader among the five ex-Soviet Central Asian nations, but he was accused of increasingly cracking down on dissent in recent years.

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Some fear the split - and the competing parliaments - could fuel simmering tension and plunge the shaken Central Asian country into deeper turmoil. Both groups - the parliament newly elected in a disputed vote that sparked massive discontent, and the one that lost the...
Kyrgyzstan,Rival,Parliaments,Vie,for,Power
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2005-00-27
Sunday, 27 March 2005 12:00 AM
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