Monday, October 22, 2007

Kyrgyzstan Update

Kyrgyzstan’s President Kurmanbek Bakiyev dissolved parliament on October 22, 2007, moving to strengthen his control after voters overwhelmingly approved constitutional changes that his critics called a grab for power.

Bakiyev’s move was part of his latest battle with lawmakers, a dispute that has persisted in the Central Asian country of 5 million since a popular uprising ousted its longtime leader in 2005.

The confrontation has hindered efforts to reduce poverty and social problems in the strategically important country, which hosts a U.S. air base as well as a growing Russian military base.

Parliament passed two sets of constitutional changes last year curtailing the president's powers. But lawmakers reversed them a month later after Bakiyev threatened to dissolve the legislature, returning to the president the authority to form the Cabinet. There were no immediate signs, however, that Bakiyev's moves would bring opposition protesters into the streets, as during previous disputes.

The last major anti-government protest in the capital, Bishkek, took place in April, and it was forcibly dispersed.
The president's office called on law enforcement agencies Monday to ensure public calm. But in his address, Bakiyev said that no emergency measures would be put in place. Kyrgyzstan has been troubled by political tension since Askar Akayev was ousted from the presidency by opposition protesters in 2005 and fled to Russia.

It was claims of fraud in the election of the current parliament that sparked the protests that brought Bakiyev to power.
Since then, the former opposition forces that were instrumental in Akayev's removal have battled each other for influence. Former parliament Speaker Marat Sultanov said that, under the newly approved constitution, elections should be held around mid-December.

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