Kyrgyzstan Opposition Declares Control of Government
With President Kurmanbek Bakiyev taking shelter at an undisclosed location in the south of Kyrgyzstan, opposition leaders announced they had dissolved parliament and taken full control of the nation’s government. Led by former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva, the opposition said it would remain in power until a new round of elections is held in six months.
The New York Times Lede blog has rounded up video from the protests here.
According to the AP, Bakiyev told a Russian radio station that “I don’t admit defeat in any way” but also admitted that “even though I am president, I don’t have any real levers of power.”
“If they can hold power for six days, they can hold power for six months,” said Martha Brill Olcott, a senior associate with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment who specializes in transitions in the region.
“They have to be able to create security on the streets. If they can do that they can hold power for six months, in six months the people won’t expect the government to solve the economic problems.”
Opposition leaders also announced Thursday they had no intentions of closing Manas, U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan being used to support operations in Afghanistan. A yearlong lease on the base with Kyrgyzstan’s government expires in July.
“Its status quo will remain in place,” Otunbayeva told reporters. She added, though: “We still have some questions on it. Give us time and we will listen to all the sides and solve everything.”
Otunbayeva, the new self-proclaimed Kygyrz leader, is well known in the country and the United States. Olcott, who knows Otunbayeva personally, says the opposition leader’s past work as a diplomat in the U.S. gives her immediate connections to the Washington policy establishment.
“She’s a former communist party organizer and then a diplomat,” said Olcott, “So she knows how to mobilize people.”
The opposition is arguing Bakiyev abandoned the principles that he came to power under. Meanwhile the public has been increasingly angry about hikes in utility prices during the global economic crisis.
“If the opposition stays in power they are going to face the same dilemma [Bakiyev] did in raising [the prices],” Olcott said.
Some observers are also noting the attention around a phone conversation between Otunbayeva and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after the apparent governmental shift — and what it may mean for the confluence of U.S. and Russian interests in the region.
Tune in to Thursday’s NewsHour for more on the unrest in Kyrgyzstan.