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Kyrgyz President Lays Out Long-Term Vision

  • Bruce Pannier --> Kurmanbek Bakiev (file photo) (RFE/RL) BISHKEK, September 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev today addressed the nation from the parliament building outlining his vision for the country for the next decade or longer.

Bakiev said there are "three stages" involved in reaching the country's goal to strengthen the foundations of its statehood. The first stage was maintaining the uninterrupted work of all the branches of power and sectors of the economy after the country's March 2005 revolution. That stage has been completed.

He then set out the second stage.

"Full restoration of strong government authority and the rule of law, the introduction of amendments to the constitution, the establishment of viable political parties and the creation of a civil society, and raising a new generation of political elite," Bakiev said.

Bakiev's speech comes at a sensitive time. He and his government have been beset by one crisis after another since they came to power less than 18 months ago.

The third stage, Bakiev said, includes improving the ability of the country to compete globally in many arenas -- economically, politically, culturally, and socially. Bakiev said that by 2015 Kyrgyzstan, which is now largely dependent on international help, should be able to stand on its own and its people should enjoy a standard of living comparable to those in developed countries.

Amendments And Referendum

Bakiev also spoke about the impending amendments to the constitution, saying he favors a new constitution that preserves a strong executive branch.

There are currently three versions of the amendment package under review. After deputies decide which version to use, a referendum on the amendments is expected before the end of this year.

Deputies and experts have drafted amendments that preserve a strong executive branch and others that would change Kyrgyzstan to a parliamentary state or a presidential-parliamentary state.

Some have criticized Bakiev for delaying the referendum, saying he has not kept promises made after the March 2005 change of power to alter the system of government in the country.

Foreign Policy Summary

Bakiev also devoted some of his speech to Kyrgyzstan's foreign policy. He said Kyrgyzstan would continue to court good relations with the West, but he also said it is time to strengthen ties with the country's Central Asian neighbors.

"You see that our foreign policy positions on many issues have changed drastically," he said. "The essence of these changes is that we are putting our national interests first. This explains why we have paid more attention to our closest neighbors -- Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. Good relations with our neighbors are part of our security and economic development."

Bakiev did not forget other nations that have played large and positive roles in Kyrgyzstan's development since the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"Also, [regarding] our foreign policy toward countries that are further away -- our policy toward Russia, the European Union, Japan, and the United States has to continue to be carried out in a number of directions, as it has been before," he said.

Opposition Not Impressed

Reactions to the speech were mixed. Ex-speaker of parliament Medetkan Sherimkulov and others supported the president.

Roza Otunbaeva of the opposition Asaba (Flag) party and other opposition politicians criticized it, saying that it resembled speeches by ousted former President Askar Akaev.

Otunbaeva dismissed the speech as theatrics.

"I think this was just one of the usual, standard, routine reports," Otunbaeva said. "For about 10 years, Akayev made such speeches every year. Now we have heard the same thing. [Bakiev] is addressing the nation for the first time since the March Revolution. We expected new ideas, new initiatives, and new programs. Instead all his words struck our hearts with their unbelievabilty."

Bakiev's speech comes at a sensitive time. He and his government have been beset by one crisis after another since they came to power less than 18 months ago. Most recently, the alleged involvement of Bakiev's brother, a deputy security chief, in an amateurish plot to discredit a leading government critic focused unwanted attention on the government.

Bakiev's speech today, therefore, was not only an appeal to the people to look forward, but also an effort to put earlier scandals behind him and demonstrate he has not forgotten the promises he made during last year's presidential campaign.

Central Asia In Focus

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