Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Kyrgyzstan's New United Opposition Movement

Published in Field Reports
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By Arslan Sabyrbekov (the 19/02/2014 of the CACI Analyst)

At a meeting on February 12, the leaders of several political parties in Kyrgyzstan established a United Opposition Movement and elected an opposition member of the Kyrgyz Parliament, Ravshan Jeenbekov, as its leader.

The newly created opposition movement is highly representative in its membership. It includes the recently defeated ex-mayor of Osh, Melis Myrzakmatov and his Uluttar Birimdigi party, General Omurbek Suvanaliev, former Kyrgyz MP Kamchybek Tashiev, former Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov, and the leader of Kyrgyzstan’s Peoples’ Democratic Party Artur Medetbekov. Reportedly, several other acting members of the Parliament have also expressed their willingness to join the movement, but their names are not yet known to the wider public.

In the words of the movement’s leader Jeenbekov, the newly united opposition movement pursues three fundamental goals. “The first and far most important objective is to reinstate the current Constitution. It is in fact not bad but the Kyrgyz president has completely violated it with an objective of consolidating his power,” Jeenbekov stated.

The movement's second objective is the establishment of a purely parliamentarian form of government which, in the words of the movement’s members, “proved itself to be an efficient and more democratic way of organizing and running the state.” Jeenbekov defined the movement's third objective as a continuous struggle against the authoritarianism of the state power. He stated that “the President has done nothing over the past two and a half years, his promises and our hopes are melting like the spring snow and his power is merging with crime. Having created the new movement, we will fight against the ruling regime and constructively suggest our vision for the country’s future development, before it becomes too late.”

According to local political analysts, the movement can indeed turn into a real force against the current ruling regime, which has lately sustained heavy criticism for its alleged failure to reach an agreement that safeguards Kyrgyzstan’s national interests with Canada’s Centerra Gold over the ownership of the Kumtor mine, its selective and politically motivated arrests of politicians on corruption charges, the release of criminal boss Aziz Batukaev from prison and a number of other developments raising concerns among the Kyrgyz public. Some do not exclude the possibility that the movement can in the near future turn into a single political party, ready to compete in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.

As for the newly elected leader of the United Opposition Movement, public opinion displays divisions as well. For some, Jeenbekov is a young, reform minded politician, an independent MP who has left his fraction due to strong ideological differences. He is a graduate from the MIT Sloan School of Management and an active user of social media, who personally responds to all the comments posed by his more than 4,500 followers. His supporters consider him to be a truly spirited liberal democrat, constantly calling for progressive reforms. He also recently attended and spoke at the Euromaidan in Kiev, supporting the country’s commitment to democracy and its integration with the EU. Local media was quick to judge Jeenbekov's decision to attend a rally in support for another country’s opposition and has made allegations that he possibly met with U.S. Senator John McCain during his Ukraine visit.

For others, Jeenbekov is a skilled politician, who has worked for both of Kyrgyzstan’s ousted regimes and always assumed top positions ranging from a member of the government to Kyrgyzstan's Ambassador to Malaysia. Furthermore, critics assert that Jeenbekov was at the forefront of Kyrgyzstan's privatization in the 1990’s while heading the State Agency for Property Development and that he privatized for himself a number of then state owned properties. In one of his speeches, Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev indirectly described Jeenbekov as a multi-millionaire, who made his fortune while working for the government. The President implied that in Kyrgyzstan, it is never possible to acquire wealth as a government official, unless one engages in corruption.

Time will tell how Kyrgyzstan's politics will evolve with a new player in its political arena. In the meantime, the United Opposition Movement is developing concrete plans to be presented in the near future.

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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.


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